by Lang Whitaker

ATLANTA — “May I have your attention, the gates will be opening in 30 minutes. The gates will be opening in 30 minutes.”

These are the words that were just announced over the PA system here inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It’s a little after 3:15 p.m., and the first half of the Final Four is scheduled to tip around 6:00 p.m.

From my seat in the Georgia Dome press box, it looks like this:

You may be asking yourself, Why is Lang at the Final Four? Isn’t he more into the NBA than college ball?

Yes, I am. But the ATL is my hometown, so I’m all over anything Atlanta-related. What’s funny about this particular trip is that I’ve been working on setting up a SLAM photo shoot and interview with a big-time NBA player, and I found out late last week that we managed to pull it off, but it can only happen on Monday. Which means that after tonight’s games, I’m going to hop on a plane and jet from the ATL and miss being at the Championship Game on Monday night. If I was a huge college fan I’d probably be upset, but the guy I’ll be with instead should make up for the loss.

A few general thoughts about this Final Four:

• The one thing that stinks about coming home and having to do work is that I barely have the time to see my friends and family. I made/received 54 calls on my cell phone yesterday. I’ve handled 28 so far today.

(One of those calls today was from my main man Kevin Willis, who was returning the message I’d left him congratulating him on signing with the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s crazy,” Willis said with a laugh. I told him to knock some sense into those big men in Dallas and Kevin said, without laughing, “Oh, you know I will.”)

• I went over to Decatur (where it’s greater) this morning for the adidas Nations event, then headed to downtown Atlanta to see what was happening.

During the NBA All-Star Game here a few years ago, traffic was such a mess downtown that you couldn’t walk anywhere, couldn’t do anything. This weekend there’s not so many cars around as there are people everywhere.

Especially white people. Really, there’s white people all over the place down here. Suburban white people. It’s like the opposite of NBA All-Star weekend. I haven’t seen this many white people in one place since the last time I went to one of Khalid’s parties.

• Best t-shirt I saw downtown was a guy wearing a grey shirt that simply said “got greg?”

• An 18-wheeler was parked on Marietta St. near Philips Arena, and on the back was a big banner that read: “NCAA: Dump Coca-Cola — Money Corrupts.” On the side was a banner announcing that the truck was owned by the Teamsters. A couple of police cars rolled up on it as I was walking past.

• I’ve been to enough big NBA events to know that you can never get your credential too early. So I showed up at the Dome around 2:00 p.m., four hours before tip-off, and found the building completely empty except for the Dome staff. Two minutes later, I had my credential and was inside the Dome.
• I had to pony up $30 to a couple of guys in the press room in order to have wireless internet access. And I only paid for one day. The NCAA must be raking it in from that. I’m sure all the proceeds will go to benefit student athletes.

• After wandering around for a while, I found my assigned seat in a press box behind one of the baskets, about 100 yards from the actual floor halfway up the stands between the upper and lower decks. I suppose it could be worse — at least I’m in the front row of the press box.

• Whenever they play basketball in the Georgia Dome, they move in a bunch of rolling bleachers and set them up at what would be the 50-yard-line. Then they set up the court in what would be an end zone. This means nearly half of the Georgia Dome isn’t being used whatsoever. And there will still be like 50,000 people in here.

• Food report: Caesar salad and lasagna. A solid C. During dinner I bumped into ESPN’s NBA Insider John Hollinger, and soon John and I joined Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel over at a TV to watch the end of the Cavs/Bulls game. You know, real basketball. Hollinger and I briefly discussed the pro prospects of a bunch of the guys who will play tonight. I told him my darkhorse pick to have a good pro career is the point guard from Georgetown. But I didn’t remmeber dude’s name, and John couldn’t think of it either. Eventually someone says “It’s Wallace” and saves me. Real college experts, the two of us.

• I also like that Jonathan Wallace (his name) is from a town called Harvest, Alabama, which sounds like a Damien Rice song.

• I’m sitting behind all the Ohio St. fans. Lots of red (shirts) and gray (hair). Is it just that the old people have the money to travel and pay for tickets, or does Ohio State really just have a bunch of old fans? I hope it’s the latter. Not a lot of people with sideburns down there.

• National anthem is performed by the Ohio St. band, who get props for blasting through it quickly.

• Best thing about sitting up here? I can’t hear or see Jim Nantz or Billy Packer.

• You’d think the folks who run the Georgia Dome would eventually invest in a nice scoreboard. But they haven’t. Instead they’re using the same rinky-dink scoreboard they’ve used for basketball here at the Dome for as long as I can recall. No frills at all.

• The court has abstract green designs all over the sidelines and baselines. In a strange way, it reminds me of the Uma Thurman character in that one Batman movie with George Clooney.

• Signs all over the arena read: THE ROAD ENDS HERE. Is that a promise or a threat? I don’t know.

• Perhaps it’s just because I’m sitting behind them, but the Ohio St. fans are much louder than the Georgetown fans early on. All the old people are waving their canes in the air, rattling their pill bottles…it’s really cute. Hopefully nobody breaks a hip. They also keep singing song a fight song that ends with them yelling “O-Hi-O!” When they get to that part they raise their arms above their heads and make an O and some other letters. The whole production is a little too “YMCA” for me.

• By the way, I was emailing back and forth with a big-time NBA agent the other day, and I asked him if he was coming down to Atlanta. He wrote back: “Atlanta? We would never be anywhere near eligible players…”

• Finally, time for tip-off…

OHIO ST (34-3) VS GEORGETOWN (30-6)
• My pregame prediction: Georgetown wins by 8. I’m taking Georgetown solely because they were once name-checked in an OutKast song.

• First play of the game, and Roy Hibbert picks up a foul immediately. I’m pretty disappointed that Georgetown just gave Mutombo’s old number away to Hibbert. Although they are equally amusing to watch play.

• And how about Georgetown giving Iverson’s old number 3 to DaJuan Summers? If I was a good high school player, I wouldn’t go to Georgetown just because there’s no possibility of having your number retired.

• 5-3, Georgetown, early. Best shot thus far was a Hibbert running hook.

• Ohio State climbs ahead 8-5 on a three and a layup.

• Wallace makes a great play where he tips a loose ball to a wide-open Hibbert under the basket. My man Hibbert goes up strong and shoots a hard jumper off the underside of the rim which nearly decapitates a few people down there.
• First timeout, and it’s 8-5, Ohio State. There have been five shots made in the first 4 minutes, and 3 of them were three-pointers. I don’t think Jeff Green’s even touched the ball for Georgetown. G-Town’s also not getting any of their patented back cuts to come open.

• Hibbert hits a runner! Love it. He runs like he’s wearing a chastity belt. I don’t know what that means.

• A white guy on Ohio State gets a tip-in, and the fans in front of me go wild. Not sure if it’s because he’s white or perhaps because he’s an uncelebrated bench player.

• 11:48 to go and Mike Conley darts into the lane, briefly disappears, then re-emerges on the other side for a clean layup. 14-7, Ohio St. Oden is on the bench right now.

• 10 minutes to go, 14-7, Ohio State. BOOOOORRRRINNNGGG! If I was at home I’m pretty sure I’d be watching some random movie in HD right now. Finally we get a TV timeout. Jeff Green is still scoreless. Terrible start for both teams, who are playing uninspired, joyless hoops. Lucky for Ohio State, they’re leading.

• Georgetown comes out of the TO fired up. They get a three from Wallace, then Hibbert rips a defensive board, then Jeremiah Rivers, son of Linkstigator Doc Rivers, passes a ball out of bounds. Then someone takes another timeout. It hasn’t even been 2 minutes since the last one. And people criticize the NBA for taking too many stoppages in play?

• By the way, Jeremiah Rivers is to the basketball playing profession what Doc Rivers is to coaching profession.

• The scoreboard urges me to go to NCAA.org to check out when an NCAA leadership conference is coming to an area near me. The scoreboard helpfully adds that these conferences are free. They could offer me $50 to attend and I wouldn’t be there. For $100, I’d listen.

• Hibbert throws down a one-handed dunk that leaves the support shaking. 15-12, Ohio State. Next time down he gets a follow-up dunk to make it 15-14. Next time down he picks up his second foul. Good play, good play, stupid play. Seems like Hibbert’s pattern.

• Timeout with 6:48 to go, Ohio State ahead 15-14. This game’s going fast. Would be great if they could finish both games in about an hour. I’m hoping one of these teams breaks 20 by the half.

• Greg Oden looks like Wise LeBron, doesn’t he?

• Sorry, just spent a few minutes trying to find a good picture of Wise LeBron with no luck. 20-14, Ohio State. I think John Thompson (the old one) is actually playing for Georgetown.

• G-Town’s Jessie Sapp jacks up a three when he had a guy wide-open in the corner, then comes down and doesn’t guard his man, giving up a great look at a three. No points either way, could have been a 6-point swing.

• Timeout, 23-17, Ohio State. The Georgetown band is playing the most rhythm-free version of “Push It” that I’ve ever heard.

• This game is terrible so far. It’s putting me in a bad mood. I suddenly feel mad at the world. I feel like Russ.

• Actually, considering Georgetown has looked horrible, they’re still only down 6. So they’ve got that going for them.

• 3:14 to go in the first half and Green finally gets on the board with a layup.

• If Jeremiah wasn’t a bullfrog before now, he is tonight.

• We see a shot of a forlorn Oden sitting on the bench on the scoreboard TV. No idea why. Foul trouble? They don’t give us any stats or info around here.

• Did you know Georgetown has a guy named Kenny Izzo on their bench? Don’t know if he’s related to Tom Izzo…but he should be!

• Bad foul by Ohio State just before the half, giving G-Town two cheap free throws before the buzzer.

• We go to the half with the score: Ohio State 27, Georgetown 23. Luckily the Hoyas got a late field goal to make it a 4-point game.

• Halftime is 20 minutes long! Are you kidding me? Why not go ahead and make a full half-hour? Or at least give us some nipple-baring halftime entertainment. (Instead we get 15 minutes of a kid methodically pushing a broom all over the floor. Kind of mesmerizing in a zen way, like a human Zamboni.

• I will say this: It’s interesting how hard it is for me to watch a game from up here. I’m so far away that I can’t see people’s numbers without really concentrating, but I also can’t see any replays or stats, so I have to pay a lot more attention, which means I can’t be thinking about what to write. So should I focus on the notes or the game? I say the notes.

• At halftime I bump into Chuck Klosterman, who I had a few drinks with at Ryan’s going-away party. He sat courtside for the first half but was moved to the upper press box for the second half (long, but good, story). We talked for a while and I didn’t tell him that all you readers like to make fun of him. Also, he has an incredible amount of files on the desktop of his iBook.

• I finally get a stat sheet. Second half starts so I can’t look at it. Wallace gets a two to make it a 2-point game. Ohio St. answers right back on a follow by Ivan Harris.

• Hibbert! Summers! And suddenly we have a tie game.

• They go back and forth for the next few minutes, and it feels like we have a game on our hands. The elderly Ohio State fans in front of me have quieted, or maybe they’re just napping. Oden tries to dunk on Hibbert and gets swatted, and then someone else goes up for a layup and Hibbert just punches him in the armpit, which seems like it must hurt pretty badly.

• Timeout with 15:56 to go, G-Town up 34-33. G-Town comes out in a zone, OSU handles it perfectly, then gets it to Oden under the rim for a dunk and a chin-up. The only time he doesn’t look extremely old is when he’s doing those chin-ups on the rim.

• There’s a strange atmosphere in the Dome because the fans are mostly spread out all over the place and so far removed from the court; there just happens to be this big Ohio St. contingent in front of me. So there’s no feeling of a war between two sections of fans or anything like that. And keep in mind that as far as I am from the floor, there’s another 30,000 people with worse seats than me.

• G-Town goes man again and Oden hits an easy hook over Hibbert. Hibbert comes back and gets a layup over Oden, and one. Oden notches his third foul as we go to a timeout. A timeout on the floor, a timeout with the score Ohio State 42, Georgetown 38. We’ll be right back after these commercial messages.

• Congratulations to the 2006 Women’s Water Polo Champion UCLA! That’s the kind of news we get on the scoreboard here instead of, say, shooting percentages during the biggest game of the year thus far. This is like basketball for children.

• Hibbert misses a free throw but G-Town gets the rebound. Hibbert gets fouled under the rim for the third straight possession.

• Ron Lewis misses a three, hits the deck holding his ankle as though he just shattered it, then when no call is made he hops back and up and continues playing, totally fine. He should at least get a yellow card for that.

• My man Wallace nails a three to make 44-all, with 9:34 left in the game.

• Oden returns from a stint on the bench and scores right away to put Ohio State ahead. Why does he get benched so often with foul trouble? Either it says something about his ability (or inability) to play under control, or it says something about his coach being an idiot.

• OSU scores 6 straight with Oden in the game and they pull ahead 50-44, with 7:24 to go. Timeout. G-Town looks exhausted. OSU looks like they’re just playing with Georgetown.

• By the way, one of the refs tonight is Ted Valentine, who loves Bobby Knight.

• Oden tries to go directly over Jeff Green and crashes spectacularly to the floor. They call a block on Green. Incredibly, they don’t show a replay of the collision anywhere in the arena. 50-44, with 6:37 to go.

• I’m the only person wearing a backwards fitted cap in this press box.

• Wow. Actually, I’m the only person wearing a hat in the press box. Except for an older guy in a kufi.

• Green gets a layup to make it 51-46. He really reminds me of a quicker David West.

• OSU scores, then Hibbert drains an ill-advised 18-footer from the top of the key.

• Conley gets goaltended, Hibbert hits a hook shot. 56-50, OSU, 4:12 to go.

• Turnover OSU. Miss by G-Town. Ron Lewis misses an ill-advised three (aren’t all his three’s ill-advised?). G-Town layup. Oden misses a layup. Green drives and forces Oden’s fourth foul.

• Timeout with 2:36 to go and OSU ahead 56-52. Turning into a more competitive game, but still low scoring and boring, and at no point does it feel like Georgetown is going to make a run. I don’t understand why Oden doesn’t touch the ball every time down, and why Ohio State would rather fire up so many bad threes.

• G-Town comes out of the timeout and runs an inbounds play where Jeff Green catches the pass and plows directly into two stationary defenders. Foul, G-Town.

• OSU scores, gets a turnover in transition, and then Mike Conley does his thing where he hustles down, shifts gears and hits an open David Lighty for an and one. Got it. 61-52, 1:41 to go. Over?

• Georgetown misses a shot and Oden soars into the air, pushes a couple of guys out of the way, and grabs the rebound, sealing the win. Game over, kids.

• Georgetown tries to extend it without fouling, but that’s not working. Oden gets one forceful rejection, Georgetown calls a timeout, but this game is dunzo, folk.

• Jeff Green was oddly uninvolved all night, finishing 4-5 from the floor for 9 points, but that’s it. Hibbert notches 19 points and 3 Sno-Balls at halftime. Ohio St. gets a more balanced contribution, including 15 from Conley, 9 from Lewis, 10 from Butler and 13 from Oden.

• Final score is G-Town 60, Ohio State 67. As soon as the buzzer sounds the scoreboard goes blank. Good luck getting your commemorative photo of that.

• In between games, I skip locker room time in order to drink seven Cokes and three large coffees. Gotta wake up after that game. My homey Elena Bergeron from ESPN the Magazine strolls by and asks which is my favorite concession stand in the Georgia Dome. With a straight face I point her toward Hooters.

• While I was was walking back up to the press box, I got stopped by a security guard because the next teams were about to run out onto the floor. UCLA didn’t do much, just kind of sprinted out. Florida stopped and huddled up, and a fan above them loudly dropped a few f-bombs on their heads. They went about their business without responding.

• Nearly fully caffeinated, it’s time for game two…

UCLA (30-5) VS FLORIDA (33-5)
• From way up here you can’t see that dark spot on Taurean Green’s forehead.

• Quick foul on Afflalo.

• A well-connected reader just emailed to say that Lorenzo Mata is the ugliest non-Ewing at the Final Four. I totally agree there. Mr. Mata has some friends who might think otherwise.

• As I type that, Mata gets loose for a dunk!

• Uh-oh, Afflalo gets his second with over 18 minutes to go in the first. Not good.

• Three minutes in and it’s 2-2. UCLA replaced Afflalo with Michael Roll, who looks like a villain from a teen movie.

• Last weekend I was watching the Tournament and Wifey was getting ready to leave. She looked at the TV and saw the name Darren Collison, and she said, “He has such a cool name.” I said, “Collison?” And she said, “Oh, I thought it said his name was ‘Collision.’” Which actually would be a dope name, come to think of it.

• While I’m telling stories, my former roommate (both in college and after college), Mike, called me today because he was coming to the game with his wife and her family, and they’re all Florida fans. Mike and I went to Georgia and we hate Florida, but he admitted that at the behest of his wife he’d donned a Florida t-shirt. I suggested he turn it inside out and write “UCLA” on there. He agreed that he could do that, or, he said, he could just take a crap on the shirt.

• UCLA’s pep band plays a mean version of “Carry On My Wayward Son.” I don’t get to look over at him but I assume Klosterman’s pumped about that.

• 15:44 to go, and it’s 4-2. Really. I guess all four of these teams forgot to pack their offenses.

• 14:56 to go and still 4-2. Should I tell more stories? This is what it must feel like to be a baseball announcer during a blowout. Only these are supposed to be two of the best teams in college basketball. I hope the final score is something like 10-8. (UCLA just missed again.)

• Whoa! Teen Villain Michael Roll just scored as the shot clock expired to make it 6-2, possibly an insurmountable lead. Then Walter Hodge went down and plowed into a UCLA dude for a foul on Florida.

• We’re under 13 minutes now, and the score is 6-2. UCLA seems more than happy to hold the ball and move as slow as turtles on offense, letting the clock dance away.

• Three for Florida!!! Taurean Green!!!! 6-5!!!!!

• Then UCLA comes down and dribbles out the clock and calls a timeout. 11:52 to go and the score is 6-5. Hopefully UCLA can manufacture an insurance run before they bring in their closer.

• Scoreboard says: Congratulations to Div II Women’s Cross Country National Champions Adams State College! That’s the level of excitement we’re at right now.

• Corey Brewer takes a wild chance and drives toward the basket. UCLA has re-inserted Aaron Afflalo, and even though he has two fouls he hacks Brewer and gets his third foul. See you in the second half, Aaron!

• Brewer makes both freebies and Florida jumps ahead, 7-6.

• Brewer drives and scores again, 9-6.

• UCLA will now have to play from behind. Haven’t seem much of UCLA this year, but they don’t seem particularly suited to that style of play.

• One of the TV’s in my line of sight has been flipped from the in-house feed to CBS. Suddenly I can get replays!

• Florida executes out of a timeout and gets an easy dunk for Chris Richard, who’s like a poor man’s Big Baby. 11-8.

• UCLA makes a long jumper and takes a timeout for some reason. 11-10, Florida, with 8:47 to go. The coach probably wants them to keep them from getting too excited about hitting double digits. And who’s the coach of UCLA demanding they waste time and play boring basketball, Norman Dale?

• Al Horford wears flase eyelashes. That’s what I heard, at least.

• Strap and Ollie check in for UCLA.

• UCLA takes the lead, 14-13! 7:20 to go. Call a timeout! Stop the game!

• Florida seems just as aimless as UCLA, dribbling the ball all over the perimeter and not going for anything underneath. Corey Brewer finally has enough stalling and he jacks a three that hits nothing but net. UCLA’s Josh Shipp responds with a two, and Brewer nails a long jumper in response. 19-16, Florida, with 5:44 to go. They’ll both probably break 20. Dammit, boys, scoring isn’t all basketball is made of! Let’s play some defense out there!

• Lee Humphrey! My man! He gets on the board with a three from the corner to push Florida ahead 22-16. This could be it for UCLA’s four corners offense.

• Noah flips it out to Green on the perimeter, and he nails a long 2. 24-16. The crowd starts getting into it and cheering for the Gators to FINISH THEM! I start looking for a Tim Tebow jersey.

• 25-16 and Florida turns it over, following a series of wonderfully strange plays from Joakim Noah. Someone calls another timeout. If Noah was on my team I’d probably love him, but he’s not so I don’t. He’s like a multi-culti Bill Laimbeer.

• UCLA band’s playing “Crazy In Love” right now. Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh…

• Here’s a great idea: In order to encourage scoring in the college game, if a team has fewer points than the 35-second clock has seconds, the difference between the clock and the score should be subtracted from their shot clock time during each possession in the second half. Just a thought.

• With 2:52 to go, a bunch of the UCLA cheerleaders hop up and sprint off the floor. The mascot follows them. Because that’s what mascots do?

• Shipp gets a two and a dunk to make it 26-20, but Corey Brewer calmly drains a three to make it 29-20 with 2:05 left in the half.

• I don’t know Joakim Noah all that well, but it seem to me that having long hair like his would be nothing but problematic, just the upkeep involved. Not to mention all the people constantly asking if you’re a member of Bone Thugz & Harmony.

• 23.9 left and UCLA goes to the line. They get two to cut it to 29-23. Florida holds for the final shot, and Humphrey takes a three with too much time left. UCLA gets a look but misses.

• Halftime! 29-23, Florida leads.

• While I was in the men’s room, I started thinking about songs that would sound cool if played by a marching band. First song that came to mind was “Ridin’ Dirty.” Then I realized that this topic is probably better suited for Klosterman, so I mentioned it to him. He quickly responded that he heard a band play “Hey Ya” earlier and it didn’t sound right.

• The UCLA dance team comes out and does a really long dance routine to a sped-up version of “Welcome To Atlanta.” Creative, ladies. Then the Florida Dazzlers Dance Team comes out in white oxford shirts as “Old Time Rock And Roll” blares over the PA system. This is like a seventh grade talent show.
• Strange night all the way around. The first game was just disjointed and the second game has been Florida trying to push the tempo and UCLA, like a nervous parent in the passenger seat, doing their best to slow Florida down. Corey Brewer, for the first time in his Florida career, impressed me in the first half, scoring 15 and consistently making things happen. Josh Shipp has 14 of UCLA’s 23 points and is the only reason they’re still in this game.

• Second half! And hello Mata! He sinks a layup to make it 29-25. Humphrey goes for three to open it up again. Teen Movie Villain Michael Roll gets a three. Suddenly it’s a 4-point game.

• Never mind, Humphrey nailed a three. Then Noah gets a two. Now it’s 37-28, and there have actually been points scored. UCLA’s not having this are they? Of course not! Timeout, Bruins!

• Afflalo checks back in as Brewer shoots a three about two feet over the rim. Down in front of me in the club level, a security guard is having some sort of confrontation with two women. She leaves, wagging a finger.

• Humphrey shoots a three, and while the ball’s in the air Noah just throws his defender out of the bounds. The ball bounces off high and Noah makes the catch and flush, pushing the lead to 11.

• Timeout on the court! 39-28, Florida leads, with 15:20 to go.

• Florida’s such a veteran team that they’re nearly impossible to beat (which is why I picked them to win). On almost every possession, one of their guys will see an open shot but pass it up, knowing there’s something better available somewhere. In this instance, that means a dunk from Chris Richard. Florida goes up 44-28 with 13:49 to go.

• UCLA decides they should scare Florida, so they insert Mata. Mbah A Moute scores his first bucket of the game, and Florida gets a three back.

• Florida pushes the lead to 17, while UCLA takes what must be their 214th timeout. 11:58 to go, and it’s slipping out of UCLA’s hands. At least their cheerleaders are wearing knee socks.

• Out of the timeout, the teams exchange a missed shot for a blocked shot. UCLA seems completely out of sorts and just bored by the whole thing.

• Now Florida’s the one wasting clock. This is going to be trouble for UCLA, because all five Florida guys can handle the ball. At least, all five Florida guys think they can handle the ball.

• Ten minutes to go and the Ohio State fans are heading for the exits. I wish I was an Ohio State fan right now.

• Wow. Mbah A Moute just fouled out with 9:02 left in the game and four points. I didn’t get to write his name nearly enough tonight, if only because my spell check has such problems with it.

• Horford gets a tip jam to make it 56-40. Taurean Green goes coast to coast and bounces the ball off his foot and out of bounds. Another timeout on the court.

• Out of the timeout, UCLA waits until the shot clock is at 6 before taking a shot (a foul is called, negating the shot). They know they’re down 16 with time running out, right?

• UCLA’s Alfred Aboya gets Adunk.

• Brewer commits an offensive foul. I was starting to wonder if the tables were turning, but then UCLA turned it over and fouled Taurean Green on a drive to the basket.

• I’d like to point out that in the SLAM Yahoo! fantasy bracket, I picked all of the Final Four teams correctly and picked Florida to play Ohio State in the final game. If I win those shoes, too bad, suckers!

• Chris Richard catches a Noah miss (off a terrible shot) and gets a huge dunk.

• Whoa! Lorenzo Mata just went right around Joakim Noah and banged! He is not playing around tonight.

• A three cuts it to 63-50. Looks like it’s going to be close, until Noah grabs a board in his uniquely awkward way and gets an and one. Good. 66-50. Next time down Noah tries to break someone down off the dribble and he almost knocks himself over. He then shoots the ball two feet over the rim. This guy is really going to be a top five pick in the NBA Draft?

• Tonight’s attendance is 53,510. Not now, because people are running for the exits, but I assume they mean for the entire evening. Impressive, though I once covered a Hawks/Bulls game at the Dome that had over 62,000 fans. That Jordan guy sure could pack ‘em in.

• A quick UCLA three makes it 68-55 with 3:15 left. Foul, right? Make this last 3:15 take 30 minutes, right? No, UCLA lets Florida run down the clock and gives Horford a jumper on the baseline to make it a 15-point game again.

• A three by Afflalo cuts it to 10 with 1:52 left. Now UCLA will foul fast. I don’t know their percentages because they don’t give us anything statistical around here, but I’d send Noah and Horford to the line as much as possible.

• They send Green to the line. He makes both. UCLA gets a quick two. Green gets called for double-dribbling. 10 point game with 1:26 to go. Florida takes a 30-second timeout, maybe to plan their victory celebration for later in the night.

• Mata just fouled out. It’s a blow for, well, interesting-looking people all over the world.

• UCLA misses a three and Florida gets the ball. Horford to the line, up 11.

• As a basketball fan, I understand that UCLA can try to keep this close and foul and take timeouts and all that. But as a tired human being, I really hope they don’t do that.

• Final Score: Florida 76, UCLA 66. Get ready for a repeat of the BCS Title game.

• Postgame, and I’m going to the locker rooms, but I want to post this before that. So look for another post before the game Monday night to tie up whatever loose ends I realize are dangling out there.