Saturday, March 10, 2007

Oden, Buckeyes top Purdue, to face Wisconsin again

Sorry I couldn't talk about Friday's game against Michigan. Thanks to the wonderful world of noon tip-offs during the week, I was only able to catch a few minutes of the game. When I go on my March Madness posting spree (because, as most everyone will agree, there's no better time of the year), I'll do my best to preview and recap the weekday games, but unfortunately school will always be a priority, so who knows just how in-depth I will be able to get.

Of course, this will have zero effect on weekend games, such as today's. The OSU-Purdue game today pretty much mirrored the teams' two previous encounters during the season: Purdue would keep it close, Oden would overwhelm the undersized Boilermakers, and the Buckeyes would pull away in the end.

The star of the game, unquestionably, was Greg Oden, who is seemingly becoming a more complete big man with each game. Oden was the Buckeye's leading scorer with 17 points, as well as an almost jaw-dropping 19 rebounds, 9 of which were offensive. He also had four blocks, two assists, and perhaps most importantly, only one turnover. Watching Oden in these past two games, I can safely say that he is playing better than at any other time this season, especially on the offensive end. I don't know if his right wrist just healed dramatically from last weekend, or if he has finally adjusted to the collegiate competition, but this is a completely different Greg Oden than the one that would struggle to catch the ball, miss easy shots, and be limited to the most basic of post moves. Something has definitely "clicked" in his game. Now, when Oden backs down defenders, it seems like he is doing it with much more awareness with regards to his position on court as well as the defender's position. Instead of just forcing up ill-advised shots, he is exploiting the defense and making the smart play.

Another dramatic improvement I've noticed in Oden since his first game is in his rebounding. Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "But didn't Oden lead the Big Ten in rebounding this season?" Well, yes he did, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's been the dominant force on the boards that so many have expected him to be. Earlier in the season, you wouldn't see Oden go after every missed shot, and as a result, he would drop some easy boards, or an undersized guard would end up with the ball. That didn't exactly happen in today's game, as his career-high 19 rebounds should provide sufficient evidence. On one occasion, Oden tipped a ball in from what the announcer hyperbolized as "the other side of the paint." Of course, Oden wasn't that far away, but he was far away enough that no normal big man would be able to get his hand on the ball, much less tip it in for a basket. But Greg Oden did. Why? Well, because he's Greg Oden, and that's the kind of freakish physical characteristic that will make him the #1 pick in the NBA draft next season. He was the #1 recruit in the nation for the reason, and that's because he has the potential to do things that seven-footers just don't do. He very well may be playing the best basketball of his life right now, and if he keeps it up, this very well may be a March to remember.

For the conference tournament, Oden is averaging 19.5 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and 4.0 BPG. If Ohio State can win tomorrow, there's no doubt who will be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Other notes of interest:
  • Oden also had the play of the game, where he had a slam dunk-put back off of a missed shot. The dunk came over two Purdue defenders that were clearly in better position to get the board (see what I meant about doing things other basketball players don't do?). The play brought confirmation to the theory that one out of position Greg Oden is better than two prepared Purdue players.
  • To get off Greg Oden for a moment, I'll also give praise to others that deserve it:
  • Ron Lewis continues to have a great tournament, as he scored 13 today (in addition to the 16 he scored yesterday). His low FG% (.25), however, continues to add to those ever-present shot selection questions.
  • Ivan Harris continues to impress me more with each game. I used to not be a big fan of him, but he's been our most reliable 3-pt shooter for a while now.
  • Daequan Cook, on the other hand, can not shake his struggles. He played very well against Michigan, but he can't seem to put two-straight productive games together anymore, as he only managed a single point.
Not necessarily a game note, but the All-Conference teams and awards were announced earlier in the week. This may be one of the most impressive seasons awards-wise for the Buckeyes. Honors are listed below:

Thad Matta - Coach of the Year (As voted on by both the Media and Coaches)
Greg Oden
- First team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media), All-Freshman team, Freshman of the Year (Coaches and Media), Defensive POY, All-Defensive team, Big Ten Sportsmanship Honoree.
Mike Conley - First Team All-Big Ten (Media), Second Team All-Big Ten (Coaches), All-Freshman Team,
Daequan Cook - 6th Man of the Year, Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (Media)
Jamar Butler - Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)
Ron Lewis - Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)

Note: The All-Freshman team, All-Defensive team, Defensive POY, and sixth man awards are all voted on by the coaches only.

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