By Skip Bayless
Page 2

Here's the problem with making big-game predictions: They turn into self-defeating prophecies.

They sometimes return like angry Frankensteins to punish their maker.

Favorites you pick against are sometimes jarred out of their potential bigheaded complacency and driven to prove you're a bleeping idiot. (See USC's football team and how it mauled Oklahoma in the national championship game two years ago.) Underdogs are sometimes inspired to pull off all-time upsets. (See Texas' football team in this year's national title game or the Pittsburgh Steelers in this year's NFL playoffs.)

Jordan Farmar
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Jordan Farmar and the rest of the Bruins are headed for a national championship, according to Skip.

Which brings me to the prediction I made in my last column: UCLA, the Dream Killer, would spoil the Final Four party by frustrating and beating Big Baby's team, then Joakim's, just the way the Bruins killed the dreams of Gonzaga and Memphis.

But this time, I'm not going to lie low and hope Florida coach Billy Donovan doesn't use my Friday column to get his Gators' attention and motivate them for Monday night's championship game.

I'm going to risk sabotaging my prediction.

I'm going to shout it from the ESPN mountaintop: The Gators have no idea what they're up against.

And it won't matter if this winds up pinned on Florida's bulletin board. Somehow, some unpredictable way, UCLA will still win.

Before Gonzaga played UCLA in the Sweet 16, Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters that Adam Morrison was furious over a column I'd written about him, and that Morrison was inspired to take his game to even greater heights against the Pac-10's Bruins.

He wound up on the hardwood crying with 2.6 seconds left after UCLA held him scoreless from the 3:26 mark, when his two free throws gave the Zags a nine-point lead. UCLA won by two.

UCLA will do that to you.

The Bruins were the lone Final Four team I picked -- and I had no real idea how good they were. I had no idea they would come from 17 down against Gonzaga. No idea they could hold Memphis to 45. No earthly idea they could demolish LSU on Saturday night with Aaron Afflalo going 3-of-11 and regional MVP Ryan Hollins contributing only six points and three rebounds while hobbled by a badly bruised thigh.

UCLA embodies this year's NCAA Tournament: wildly unpredictable, but always terrific.

Good luck, Gators.

UCLA makes George Mason look like George Burns.

Coach Ben Howland played his second string almost as many minutes as his starters in Saturday night's first half -- only partly because of foul trouble. And UCLA still led 39-24 at halftime -- though that lead easily could have been 30.

Pac-10 freshman of the year Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has such a long name that he must be twins. He was everywhere, making hustle shots and snatching rebounds. He had 17 points and nine boards -- five of them offensive.

Lorenzo Mata
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Lorenzo Mata showed a lot of guts playing with a broken nose.

But the guy who really broke LSU's will was the guy whose nose was recently broken for the second time this season -- the masked man, power forward Lorenzo Mata. Mata had eight killer rebounds (three offensive) and two blocks in only 17 minutes.

At 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, Mata was just too physical and played way too hard for living-room America's favorite Final Four player, LSU's 6-9, 310-pound Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Mata got to the heart of the matter with: "Coach told us to come out and take their hearts out. We took their hearts out."

Listening, Florida?

Just when you thought UCLA was a bore-you-to-death, walk-it-up, halfcourt-offense team that's new motto is "substance over style," the Bruins ran like a John Wooden team off LSU's many wild misses and turnovers. The pace got so frantic that Big Baby twice had to call timeouts to keep his lungs from bursting.

The Bruins harassed him into a hapless 5-of-17 night, and with 2:09 remaining, he'd finally had enough. He purposely picked up his fifth and final foul by shoving Mbah a Moute right in front of an official.

UCLA will do that to you, Florida.

Beware, because the other young out-of-the-SEC-shadows team had spent the week hearing mostly about how great it was. NBA scouts were buzzing about the Tigers' Tyrus Thomas, a potential No. 1 overall pick. Could Big Baby go top five? Could Tasmin Mitchell be a first rounder?

Heads swelled. And UCLA was an afterthought.

Listen to LSU backup point guard Ben Voogd, who has a smaller ego and larger perspective than his teammates. Voogd told the Los Angeles Times: "The film doesn't do [the Bruins] justice. The way they get in the passing lanes, their aggressiveness … it all just happened faster than we expected. I have to say we really hadn't heard much about UCLA this season. But they came out with so much fire I think it surprised us."

Even after Saturday night's game, Thomas didn't know Mbah a Moute's name. When asked about Mbah a Moute's game, Thomas looked puzzled for a moment.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "No. 23. I guess he was good."

Thomas still wouldn't give UCLA credit. Of course, he surely was blaming this embarrassment -- at least in part -- on coach John Brady. And Brady does deserve some blame.

Brady clearly was upset with Thomas' lack of effort when he pulled him early in the second half. The two had words -- though Thomas said it wasn't an altercation, just a discussion.

Brady said Thomas "wasn't as mentally sharp as we needed him to be."

Thomas wound up playing only four minutes in the second half. Though he had four fouls, he was on the bench for the game's final 10 minutes. He wound up taking only four shots and scoring five points -- although he did have six rebounds and three blocks in 17 minutes.

Brady must have been really steamed at Thomas. Otherwise, why not play the SEC's freshman of the year with four fouls when you're down by as many as 24?

UCLA will do that to you.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been one of the keys to UCLA's title game run.

I heard from two NBA GMs on Sunday who said Florida's 6-11 Joakim Noah now looks like the No. 1 pick -- and that teammates Al Horford, Corey Brewer and even Taurean Green could eventually be first-round picks.

UCLA? No first-rounders, say the GMs.

Here we go again.

Noah, of course, is the son of former tennis star and current European rock star Yannick Noah, and a former Miss Sweden and Miss Universe candidate. He was the favorite interview subject of reporters in Indianapolis on Sunday because he's so worldly and wise for his 21 years. Joakim Noah, Renaissance Kid, has now replaced Big Baby as CBS's featured star.

What's more, Horford's father, Tito, and Green's father, Sidney, played in the NBA.

Heads, swelling?

The Gators surely believe they're better than the Bruins. And they are -- individually.

But, Gators, you'd better not expect Lee Humphrey to bail you out by hitting an unconscious 5-of-7 3-pointers in the second half, as he did against George Mason's sagging defense.

The Bruins cover like crazy. Tournament opponents are shooting just 17.5 percent against them from beyond the arc. And Joakim will start looking awfully skinny against the Bruins inside.

The Bruins play harder and tougher than you do, Gators.

I dare you to win.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.




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UCLA ON ITS WAY