This just in, Greg Oden has a
horrible metaphoric lower back strain. No, not really, but the
way he is carrying this team it would not surprise me if he developed
The Buckeyes’ miserable shooting continued through the
semifinals of the Big Ten Conference Tournament, but if you just perused
the box score, you might have missed that in large part due to the large
man in the middle.
How impressive was Oden’s performance
yesterday? Well, his 19 rebounds set a conference tournament record
and that was probably the second most impressive aspect of his game
yesterday. Oden “only” carded four blocks, but now he is not
only altering shots; he is altering the way entire teams are playing
the Buckeyes. He is dominating defensively like only the best
centers in basketball can, a la Russell or O’Neal.
I am aware that I recently asked
where Ron Lewis has gone, apparently he decided to show me he was still
alive and well by assailing the backboard and rim with sixteen shots
(ten or so may have caused irreparable damage to the rim). While
Lewis did contribute 13 points in a low scoring game, it took him 16
shots to do so. You don’t have to be a statistician to see that
this is not a great return, but the poor shooting was not limited to
As a whole, the Buckeyes shot
a miserable 35.9% from the floor, and a Cavalieresque 62% from the line.
If you remove Oden’s 8-13 performance, the Buckeyes’ FG% drops to
a paltry 29%. The only way to win a game with shooting like that
is with good defense and rebounding. If your opposition shoots
better and out-rebounds you, they win. It is basic statistics.
As hard as it is to believe, Purdue (36.4%) shot almost as poorly as
Ohio State but still could have won that game with if the Boilermakers
were not out rebounded decisively, 43-25. Hell, with his 19 rebounds,
Greg Oden nearly out rebounded the Boilermakers.
The Boilermakers, as predicted,
came out swinging and played hard. This should have surprised
absolutely no one. If you look up bubble team in the dictionary,
there is a picture of the Purdue Boilermakers, and a win in this game
would have gone a long way toward propelling them into the tournament.
Purdue remained in this game much
later than the Buckeye faithful would have liked, and it was not until
Ron Lewis made a layup with 10:59 remaining, that the Buckeyes would
take the lead for good. While the Lewis score was nice, it was
hardly the turning point of the game. What actually turned a close
game between two teams struggling to shoot into a comfortable win was
the defense that followed. Over the next 8:30, the Buckeyes would
hold Purdue to four points, ending the game and potentially ending the
NCAA hopes for a Boilermakers team on the edge.
All this sets the table for the
Buckeyes vs. Badgers, Part Trois. A total of four points decided
the two games split by the teams in the regular season. Ohio State
won the last meeting in a defensive struggle/brick fest 49-48, while
Wisconsin won the previous meeting (handing Ohio State it last loss
16 games ago) 72-69.
It was during the 49-48 slugfest
that Wisconsin big man Brian Butch dislocated and fractured his elbow
likely ending his season and it is that injury above all things that
probably gives Ohio State the edge in this contest. Butch is a
tall rangy player that gives the Badgers another big man down low and
would have created bigger problems for the Buckeyes than even Alondo
Don’t get me wrong, I am not
implying that Butch is better than Tucker, but generally, a guy like
Tucker is going to get his points and winning or losing the game is
decided by the role players. Aside from Oden, Ohio State’s big
men have struggled and have been rather ordinary and inconsistent. Butch
forces Oden and other big men out to the perimeter because you have
to respect his outside game.
Ultimately, Oden will be too much
for the Butch-less Badgers and the Buckeyes will lock up their first
#1 seed in the tournament in recent memory. Hopefully, the Buckeyes
will shoot better from the outside, but I doubt it. This team,
for all its hype, just does not shoot well from the perimeter and each
game is further proof that this is not a slump; it is who they are.
Ohio State 64 – Wisconsin 56.