Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ohio State vs. Memphis Preview

#1 vs. #2. Despite all the parity discussed this season in college basketball, all four one seeds and three of the four two seeds reached the Elite Eight. The South region is no exception, as Ohio State and Memphis advanced for the right to go to Atlanta.

Ohio State, the #1 seed, has not been overly impressive so far in the NCAA Tournament. 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. The Buckeyes are going to have to play better in the first half against Memphis—a slow start will cost them.

Memphis came into the Tournament on a 22-game winning streak—but was not a popular Final Four selection, likely due to their level of competition in Conference-USA. However, they have disproved the doubters.They opened the Tournament with a win over a game North Texas team, followed by a competitive win over Nevada. In the Sweet Sixteen, Memphis won a classic against Texas A&M. It was back-and-forth all game, until Acie Law missed a lay-up for A&M, and Memphis grabbed four offensive rebounds resulting in two made Antonio Anderson free throws. Don't think that Memphis is just happy to be here, though—they fully expect to get to Atlanta.

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.

Memphis was near the top of the rankings throughout the season, and for good reason. They are one of the most athletic and talented teams around, and can not be rivaled in terms of their length and depth by most teams. The Tigers love to pressure the ball and get points in transition. When their run-and-gun game is going, they are very difficult to defend. The Tigers are loaded with wings. Chris Douglas-Roberts is a very good offensive player who is difficult to defend due to his length and finishing ability, while Jeremy Hunt can stroke it from deep. Antonio Anderson can do a variety of things at both ends. At the point, Willie Kemp and Andre Allen are very quick. Up front, Robert Dozier has loads of potential and has played well in the NCAA Tournament, while Joey Dorsey is a very good athlete who can block shots and rebound the ball. Doneal Mack can really stroke the three, and Kareem Cooper is a space-eater down low.

This is going to be a very interesting game between two different types of teams. Ohio State doesn’t mind running, but getting the ball inside to Greg Oden is their main objective. On the other side, Memphis likes to play transition basketball all game. If Ohio State is to advance, they need to take advantage of Oden down low. He can dominate the smaller Memphis post players. Additionally, Mike Conley will need to handle the Memphis pressure. The Tigers’ press can rattle point guards, and Conley is still only a freshman. They will also need to get quality wing production. For Memphis, they need to stop Oden. Oden has the height advantage on Joey Dorsey, but Dorsey is physical and athletic. Both have had foul problems lately, though. Chris Douglas-Roberts needs to play well offensively, and the wings are going to have to hit their threes. Robert Dozier could be a key performer for the Tigers, as well. My money is on Memphis in what could be a last-possession game. I think they are going to find a way to control Oden, and their pressure will shut down the OSU wings.

Prediction: Memphis 73, Ohio State 71

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