Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday roundup: It's Georgetown

As some of you may have heard by now, Ohio State is heading to Atlanta to take on Georgetown in the Final Four. Ohio State took care of Memphis on Saturday, led by great offensive performances from all of the usual suspects in Ron Lewis (22 points, six rebounds), Greg Oden (17 points, nine rebounds), and Mike Conley Jr. (19 points). Oddly enough, it was Conley, and not Ron Lewis who was named the MVP of the South regional, which comes as a shock to me considering Ron Lewis has arguably been the entire tournament's most outstanding player ever since the comeback against Xavier began late in the second half. He's been about as close to a complete player as it gets this entire tournament, averaging 21.75 points per game (only one game under 22 points), while at the same time being one of the team's best man defenders. This all goes without mentioning his clutch performances against Xavier and Tennessee, in which he was the catalyst for the comeback in both games.

However, lets not dwell on what didn't happen, and instead look ahead to what could happen. It was known that the final four opponent would be a rematch of some sort when Georgetown went up against North Carolina, whether it was a rematch of last year's second round tournament debacle against Georgetown or one of the season's most exciting regular season games when North Carolina topped Ohio State by 9 in Chapel Hill remained to be seen. The showdown between UNC and Georgetown looked like it was going to be a classic, until overtime rolled around and it seemed like North Carolina just got tired of trying. The Tar Heels only made one basket in the extra session en route to a 96-84 loss.

So there it is. Ohio State vs Georgetown. For the second straight year. This time, for a shot at a championship. Last season, Georgetown walked up and down Ohio State, winning by a score of 70-52. As I mentioned before, Roy Hibbert was the dominant force in the game, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, both of which were game highs. However, there should be no reason to believe that this version of the game will not be as one sided -- if even the same result -- as last season's. There will be a total of six people starting this Saturday's game that did not start last season's. Of those six, four will be lacing it up for the Buckeyes, and it's not a stretch to say that three of them (Conley, Lewis, Oden) are our three best players, and each of whom will have quite large weekly paychecks come next year.

Of course, it would be incredibly naive of me to assume that Ohio State has improved dramatically since last season's meeting, while also denying Georgetown any credit whatsoever. There's an excellent reason why Georgetown is in the Final Four, and it's because of that frontcourt. Last season, Roy Hibbert was a "project" player with tremendous upside that he showed off in that second round game. This season, he is an established force in the paint and is one of the premier centers in the nation. Also joining Hibbert down low is Big East POY Jeff Green, the dynamic 6-9 player that can do a bit of everything. Green, as you may remember, was the guy who hit the controversial travel-shot with 2.5 seconds left in the Sweet 16 game against Vanderbilt. Also part of that frontcourt is the always dangerous DaJuan Summers, who despite averaging only around 9 ppg, is quite capable of exploding for 20, as he exhibited against North Carolina. And we're going to hear his name and see his dad about as much as we did with Laura Quinn in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, so I might as well mention another formidable forward, Patrick Ewing Jr.

One player that isn't a member of the Hoya frontcourt but will be just as important in determining the outcome of the game is point guard Jessie Sapp. In just one year's time, Sapp has more than doubled his minutes played, more than tripled his point output, and more than quintupled his assists per game, all the while improving his assist:turnover ratio from 1.05:1 a season ago to 1.85 this year. Although none of his statistics are stellar by any means, his improvements from year 1 to 2 and his increasingly smart play makes him just as key a member of the Hoya team as anyone else I've mentioned.

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