As far as I am concerned, Archie
can take my alumni card, set it ablaze, and shove it, still smoldering,
squarely betwixt my buttocks, delivering it to the land where the sun
seldom shines. I deserve nothing less than that. I underestimated
my team and they over-delivered. I neglected one of the cardinal
rules of the NCAA tournament, guard play dominates all, and it was Mike
Conley that took over this game. Georgetown had no answer for
him, but we will get to that soon enough. I have never been so
delighted to eat crow! It is actually quite tasty with some fava
First of all, I think someone
forgot to tell Jeff Green that there was a basketball game occurring
tonight, either that or he was not interested in participating.
In any case, David Lighty and Othello Hunter were huge on the defensive
side. All night long the CBS broadcasters were puzzled by Green’s
non-relevance, but if you watched the game closely you would have seen
that Hunter and Lighty defended him exceptionally well. My apologies
to both Mr. Hunter and Mr. Lighty, for in my preview I did not think
the Buckeyes hand anyone that could slow Green, let alone render him
to a non-factor, yet both of these young men did exactly that.
Now, we all heard the hype about
the mythical match up between Oden and Hibbert, and man, was I looking
forward to it, but the officials destroyed any hope of intrigue with
their quick draw whistles. Although Hibbert did outscore Oden,
the match up was basically a stalemate. When Oden was in the game
with Hibbert, Oden was clearly the better player, but Oden did not dominate
as clearly as Hibbert did when his counterpart was out of the game.
To make a long sentence short, Oden outplayed Hibbert when both were
on the floor, but Hibbert did a better job of taking advantage of mismatches
when Oden was off the floor.
Anyone who was wondering if Mike
Conley could play in the NBA, or was “ready,” should have had their
questions answered yesterday. Conley is not only ready, he is
the best player on Ohio State’s roster. His control
of the game and basketball IQ remind me of, get ready for this, Steve
Nash. Yep, I just compared Mike Conley to a two time NBA MVP.
Conley, like Nash, owns the dribble. The ball responds to his
every whim, like he has it on a string. He creates scoring opportunities,
not only for himself, off the dribble like Nash, and can score with
either hand like Nash. The 3-pointer is not necessarily part of
Nash’s game, nor Conley’s, but both will use it if you leave them
alone and disrespect their shot. Furthermore, the two of them
have insanely quick hands to match their first steps. If their
mark gets sloppy, or tosses the lazy pass, Conley and Nash make them
pay, every time! Conley is more ready for the NBA than most think.
Hell, he is more ready for the NBA than Oden.
Now that I am done editorializing,
one page later, let’s get to the game…
Ohio State stole a page right
out of Old Furl’s play-book by taking it right at Hibbert. I
counted no less than five or six drives that were designed to take the
ball directly into Roy Hibbert’s chest; veteran’s Ron Lewis and
Ivan Harris were particularly active in this effort. Finally,
at the 6:48 mark, Ron Lewis was able to put Hibbert on the bench for
the remainder of the first half by attacking him with an extra dribble
in a clear effort to draw the contact. In retrospect, I wonder
if the officials enjoyed the fact that they were in fact the most important
people on the floor, that both teams were actively game-planning for
them. I cannot believe that the NCAA really wants to nullify its
marquis matches with its officials, but big men have been unfairly officiated
in the NCAA for as long as I can remember and it is not bound to stop
any time soon. Have you ever wondered why guards dominate tournament
play? Well, the fact that even the best big men spend most of
the time on the bench in foul trouble has got to be a huge part of the
The Buckeyes were able to plant
Hibbert on the bench in foul trouble again early in the second half.
Following an Oden miss underneath, Oden maintained inside position on
Hibbert, forcing him out. This allowed Harris to collect the rebound
and take the shot. Through the duration of this exchange, Oden
continued to keep a body on Hibbert, forcing Hibbert out of the play.
If Oden does not keep Hibbert out, he easily stuffs Harris like a Thanksgiving
turkey, but since Hibbert was so far outside of the play he was only
able to slap Harris in the face, drawing his third foul. Hibbert
was forced to the bench with 15:56 left in the game and with Hibbert
out, Ohio State would go on to rip off a 9-2 run, forcing John Thompson
to get Hibbert back on to the floor just four minutes later at the 12:10
mark with the Buckeyes now leading 42-36.
Oden drew his third foul just
twenty seconds later, clearly fouling Hibbert on an easy lay up.
These are the fouls that Oden has to learn how to avoid. While
you can appreciate his defensive vigor, contesting every shot in the
paint, this situation was completely hopeless; Hibbert had him so low
on the block that there was nothing he could do about it, and he should
have just watched the ball go in. Oden would be forced to sit,
but it would only be a brief respite, for he would return two minutes
later with the game tied at 44.
Hibbert would draw his fourth
foul in short order once Oden returned, and Oden drew his fourth with
2:39 remaining in the game. Surprisingly, neither player fouled
out, but that obviously does not diminish the effect that officials
had on the game. Drawing fouls on the oppositions big man was
not just a strategy to win the game, it was the strategy. The
real difference in the game was not what Ohio State was able to do with
Oden on the court, it was what Ohio State was able to do with Oden off
The Buckeyes were able to capitalize
quickly and efficiently off of Georgetown’s turnovers and the Buckeye’s
guard’s ability to get to the rim was not matched by Georgetown.
So when the big men were off the court, the Buckeyes were able to adapt,
the Hoyas were not.
For the better part of a week,
I, like you, have been subjected the national media’s rave reviews
of Georgetown’s defense. Many called the Hoya defense, “Underrated,”
but what about the Buckeyes? They gave up a mere 62.6 ppg during
the regular season, and they have only allowed 69 ppg during the tournament.
69 ppg is not particular impressive under normal circumstances, but
many announcers, Jim Nantz included, wondered aloud if the Buckeyes
would be able to keep pace with the high powered offenses in the South
Region. It is pretty clear, that Ohio State can defend just about
In my preview, I stated that Georgetown
runs a version of the Princeton offense. While this is true, I
said that they ran it well. I guess that part of my preview was
not accurate. The one thing that you cannot afford to do in that
offense is hold the ball and throw lazy passes; the Hoyas did both.
At no point did we see any of the crisp high post passing that was going
to paralyze the Buckeye’s 2-3 zone and open up backdoor layups.
As a matter of fact, the Hoyas’ passes and sets looked like something
out of Mike Brown’s playbook, and the Hoya’s motion offense appeared
as stationary as Amon Jones (he plays no D so he will not get one in
his name here).
The Buckeyes did a good job attacking
the Hoyas inside. Ohio State only attempted 14 threes for the
game, making four, choosing instead to take the ball inside for higher
percentage shots. As a result the Buckeyes shot, 44% for the game
against a team that held all of their opponents in the tournament below
40%, and Ohio State was able to get to the line more than twice as often
as Georgetown, but surprisingly they still only had 19 attempts, six
of which came with less than 30 seconds in the game.