March 30, 2007

Final Four: Ohio State

Print More

Joey “Goliath” Dorsey is an idiot. He awoke the man-child with the mountain-man beard. Yes, there is no doubting that Greg Oden lacks self-motivation and drive at times. Even his coach, Thad Motta, admits that occasionally he needs to look Oden in the eyes on the bench and say, “O.K. Greg, it’s time to play now, let’s go.” But finally, after fouling out and shooting the ball poorly against Xavier — not to mention being a complete non-factor against Tennessee — Oden appears to have come to play, and potentially due to one Mr. Joey Dorsey.

Dorsey of the Tigers, said before their game against OSU that the matchup between him and Oden would be no contest — as if he were Goliath and Oden were David, he said (no one was kind enough to point out to him that David slay Goliath). He then called Oden, “overrated” and topped it off by saying that Oden “might be as good as Joey Dorsey.” The relevant point here, though, is that Oden has now awoken — at least in his own, ho-hum manner (his response: “Dang, he just called me out,” and “kind of made me laugh”). Oden will inevitably lead Ohio State to the NCAA title before running the floor next year with the NBDL All-Stars — sometimes referred to as the Memphis Grizzlies.

Ohio State will not win because of Oden’s offensive prowess (he’s talented, but unassertive) and it will not be because of the number of blocks he has. Ohio State will win because Oden’s mere presence on the floor keeps opposing teams out of the lane and alters shots. He changes the game in so many nuanced ways that never show up on a stat sheet, and allows for the Buckeyes backcourt to operate. The trio of guards is led by the upperclassmen senior Ron Lewis and junior Jamar Butler (and senior LeBron James if he had fulfilled his verbal commitment to OSU, but I digress). For all the talk about OSU’s absurdly talented freshman class, it is these guys who have guided the freshman four (Lewis and Butler, plus Daequan Cook and David Lighty) through a tumultuous tournament.

In the second round, the Buckeyes found themselves face-to-face with an early-round exit against Xavier. Down 11 with the second half winding down, Lewis took over. He was 4-of-5 from behind the arc, putting up 27 points, when no one else could shoot a lick. In the huddle before a missed free throw kept the game at one possession, Lewis pulled a Nostradamus, telling Conley to “Get me the ball” after the second free-throw misses. The free throw missed and Conley did just that and Lewis put OSU into overtime with a long trey, escaping defeat quicker than Houdini could wriggle out of a straight jacket.

In OT, Conley took over, showing why he defines this multifaceted Buckeye offense. He slashed to the hoop with ankle-breaking crossovers and either dished or finished, scoring 11 in the session to give OSU the win.

The knock on this squad coming in was lack of tournament experience. Give credit to the OSU Athletic Director, who scheduled tough out of conference road games early in the season against North Carolina and Florida to get these freshman game tested. Even though they lost both games, the poise that they acquired was invaluable again against Tennessee as they rallied from 20 down right before the half to win a game where the chances of them pulling it out were slightly above Steve McQueen’s chances of making a clean break from concentration camp in The Great Escape.

And now the Buckeyes find themselves eyeing a matchup with Georgetown, also known as the sons-of team. Coached by the son of John Thompson, John Thompson III, and featuring Patrick Ewing, Jr. (son of former Duke guard Daniel Ewing, just kidding, Patrick Ewing) and Jeremiah Rivers (who, in limited playing time, manages to put up as many points as the entire roster, minus Paul Pierce, of the Boston Celtics, coached by his dad Doc Rivers).

Thompson has his team running the Princeton offense he learned while coaching the Ivy League’s own Princeton Tigers. The Hoyas’ Scottie Pippen-esque point-forward Jeff Green is incredibly versatile. While he struggles with his long jumper and creating off the dribble, he is a lanky and explosive mid-air finisher, and can get position under the basket. He’ll create matchup problems on defense and offense for Ohio State, as he can defend the Buckeyes’ smaller guards on the perimeter and post up their smaller guards on offense.

Green, however, is the only one of the Hoyas’ players that OSU will have trouble keeping tabs on. Since Georgetown sets up four around the perimeter on offense most of the time, they will play perfectly into the hands of a Buckeye team that essentially plays a four-guard lineup much more talented than the Hoyas’ guard tandem of Jonathan Wallace and Jesse Sapp, who appear lost at times in the Princeton offense.

The one man in charge of anchoring the whole middle for Georgetown is Roy “Long Sleeves” Hibbert, listed anywhere from 7-0 to 8-10. We have not seen a Final Four matchup of two legitimate centers this good since Vanilla Ice was in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel. The edge again goes to OSU here, though. Oden can be frustrated by a defender aggressively pushing him off the blocks, and can get lured into foul trouble by going at him on offense. Hibbert, while talented, is more of a soft-touch guy around the hoop on offense, and is closer to Shawn Bradley than Ben Wallace on defense; he doesn’t always jump on rebounds and lacks lateral quickness. Tim, I’m surprised by your pick. Just so you know, the Hoyas are not coached by Rob Koll, and at no point during the game will Green strip down to a singlet to wrestle Oden in a grease pit. Get those thoughts out of your head you dirty, dirty boy.

Ohio State will come away victorious, Oden may mumble something and crack a Moe Syzlak-esque smile, and Mike Conley, Jr. will start making plans to get that gap in his front teeth fixed with his first NBA paycheck.

It doesn’t matter which team OSU takes on in the finals. Florida has been sleepwalking through this tournament, and has not even really been challenged. Al Horford (whose dad, Tito, is bigger, has a cooler name, and looks like he could post up Oden) has been a non-factor because the Gators refuse to get him the ball in the post, instead settling for 3s. It’s too easy to make fun of Joakim Noah, so all I will say is that the next time he bumps his chest after a hand check foul resulting in the ball on the side, I think I’m going to crack (Google imaging him is always good for a laugh, though). Olivia, you are an idiot for picking them. I know it’s not your fault, though. Noah’s dancing is like those cartoons with flashing bright lights, it causes seizures and permanent brain damage, but you still can’t look away.

Kyle, your pick of UCLA is outrageous. Their center is 6-9 and his only defensive skill is that people shy away from him because his nose and head are so elongated he looks like an extra from the movie Coneheads. They also have less bench support than anyone left in the tourney. I guess you like them because their heyday, like your high-point at The Sun, is long behind them.