Friday, March 30, 2007

Ohio State vs. Georgetown Preview

For a complete preview of the Final Four, click here.

The Final Four is stacked with rematches from last season’s NCAA Tournament this year. Georgetown faced Ohio State in the second round in 2006, and the Hoyas came out on top, upsetting the second-seeded Buckeyes. Basketball fans, whether you like the college game or the pro game, are looking forward to this game. That is because of the battle of the big men—Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert vs. Ohio State’s Greg Oden. That is just one of the many storylines heading into the first game of the Final Four.

Ohio State, a #1 seed, had not been overly impressive so far in the NCAA Tournament prior to their Elite Eight game. They dominated Central Connecticut State in the opening round, but needed overtime to beat Xavier—and probably should have lost in regulation. OSU survived due to missed free throws by Justin Cage (and a possible intentional foul by Greg Oden) and a deep three by Ron Lewis at the end of regulation. Against Tennessee, the Buckeyes came back from down by 20 to beat the Volunteers by one on two Mike Conley free throws. However, against Memphis in the Regional Final, the Buckeyes got off to a good start and hit their free throws down the stretch to win going away.

Georgetown has had struggles in every game thus far, but their play late in games has been the difference. Belmont jumped out to an early lead on the Hoyas in the first round, but Georgetown dominated the second half en route to an easy win. In the second round against Boston College, it was a back-and-forth contest for much of the game before the big men for Georgetown took over late in the battle. Vanderbilt was up big early on in the Sweet Sixteen, but the Hoyas chipped away and put themselves in position to win. Down one with the clock winding down, Jeff Green hit a shot to give the Hoyas to win. They needed more late-game heroics to beat North Carolina in the Elite Eight. The Hoyas overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half, capped by a Jonathan Wallace three in regulation, and dominated the overtime period for the win.

Ohio State was one of the best teams in the country all year, and only lost three games—at North Carolina, at Florida, and at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are very young, but they have two of the best freshmen in the country in Mike Conley and Greg Oden. Conley is a terrific distributor and is very quick, while Oden has the potential to dominate in the paint. Conley has developed into the go-to-guy late in games for the Buckeyes. Another freshman, Daequan Cook, and Ron Lewis provide wing scoring, while Jamar Butler is a very good long-range shooter next to Conley. Lewis has been very clutch late in games with his ability to score and get to the foul line. Ivan Harris provides a match-up problem with his ability to draw bigger defenders away from the goal due to his shooting prowess. Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter give solid minutes off the bench inside, backing up Oden. David Lighty is athletic and strong on the perimeter.

Georgetown had a rough start to the season, but turned it around near the beginning of Big East play, winning both the regular-season and conference tournament championships. Their size and efficient offensive system makes them difficult to defend. They are mostly a half-court team that beats teams on the glass and in the paint. If their perimeter players are taking some of the pressure off the big guys, they are tough to defend. The Hoyas are led by one of the best frontcourt tandems in the country in forward Jeff Green and center Roy Hibbert. Green is an excellent all-around player, while Hibbert has developed into a terrific big man. Dajuan Summers is another solid performer up front. Their perimeter is their weakness, but Jonathan Wallace has been a good point guard this year, and Jessie Sapp has been a do-it-all type of player for the Hoyas. Patrick Ewing, Jr. is an athletic energy player off the bench.

If you like top-notch big men going at each other, this is the game for you. If you like athletic, versatile forwards, this is the game for you. If you like clutch, fundamentally-sound guards, this is the game for you. In other words, Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Georgetown should be a must-see for any college basketball fan. Both teams are very good in the half-court offensively, but they can also get out and run to score points in transition. Defensively, both the Hoyas and the Buckeyes are very solid and limit opportunities for their opponents. It should be a terrific contest.

Obviously, the key match-up is in the paint, between Ohio State’s spectacular freshman Greg Oden and Georgetown’s future lottery pick Roy Hibbert. Neither play has faced someone that can match-up with them, size-wise. Whoever wins the battle in the post will give their respective team an edge overall. If Ohio State is going to advance to the title game, they will need to take advantege of their superior perimeter group. Mike Conley is a terrific point guard, and he is quicker than Jonathan Wallace. Ron Lewis is more athletic and should have the edge over Georgetown’s DaJuan Summers. Furthermore, they have to try to get Hibbert in foul trouble. Defensively, Oden has to stay out of foul trouble, but he needs to control Hibbert in the post. Ivan Harris has to do a good job on Jeff Green—don’t be surprised if Othello Hunter gets some minutes on Green because of his height and athleticism. For Georgetown to get the victory, the Hoyas need to attack Oden right away. Memphis constantly penetrated the line for points, and the Hoyas have some players that can attack the basket. Jeff Green needs to dominate. He has a huge edge on Ivan Harris and the rest of the Ohio State forwards. Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp will also need to take care of the ball in the half-court. Mike Conley loves to play the passing lanes, igniting the Buckeyes’ fastbreaks. Defensively, Wallace and Sapp have to control Conley at the point of attack, and DaJuan Summers will need to defend Ron Lewis well. They can’t allow Lewis to get hot. In the end, I think that Ohio State’s advantage on the perimeter will be the difference. Oden should control Hibbert, and if the Buckeyes can contain Green offensively, Thad Matta and co. will get to the title game.

Prediction: Ohio State 70, Georgetown 66

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