Oden proves to be the difference as Ohio State marches on

Greg Oden numbers don't make your eye pop. Don't get me wrong, they're respectable -- 15.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.4 blocks -- but what I'm learning with each game that I watch the Buckeyes is that you simply cannot measure Oden's impact in numbers.

I am among the legions of basketball fans that assume Oden is heading to the NBA after this year, along with Texas super-frosh Kevin Durant. I even joined in the debate of whether Oden or Durant should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

That debate, in my mind, is absolutely over.

Yes, Durant is an unbelievable player who can take over a game on the offensive end pretty much anytime he wants. But Oden is a guy who can dominate a game without ever touching the ball.

Oden's final line from the win over Memphis: 17 points, nine rebounds, one block. Not the kind of numbers that knock you over, but that's not why he's so special.

He is just such a presence, the kind of player that anchors championship teams. On offense, teams constantly have to find him, lest he get an easy, uncontested bucket. On defense, he alters far more shots than he blocks, and there are countless others that never even get taken because his long arms lurk. Wherever he is on the floor, teams must account for him.

All you need to know was that the Buckeyes' win over Memphis was a tale of two games: the time that Oden was saddled with foul trouble and the time that Oden was on the floor. I don't have access to plus/minus stats for the game, but I'm sure it wasn't even close.

That to me, folks, is the biggest reason why Ohio State is heading to the Final Four -- and well on its way its first national championship in a long time.

Other thoughts ...

  • Sometimes lost in the shuffle of the attention showered on Oden and fellow freshman Mike Conley Jr. is just how awesome Ron Lewis has been in this Tournament. He averaged 24.7 points in the final three games of the regional, and he has been in the middle of every big moment for the Buckeyes, including hitting that huge 3-pointer against Xavier. The guy is tough and smart, and if I had a vote for the regional MVP, it would go to Lewis.
  • Really surprising to me that Memphis allowed itself to consistently get beaten off the dribble by Ohio State. The Tigers had proven themselves to be a pretty good defensive team, but the Buckeyes really exposed them by going to the line 41 times.
  • Want more evidence of Oden's impact? Powerful Memphis forward Joey Dorsey -- who reminds me of a poor-man's Dwight Howard -- was an absolute non-factor in the game, finishing with zero points and three rebounds in 19 foul-plagued minutes. Though never much of an offensive factor this year, he's been a rebounding machine. Not so much against the Buckeyes.
  • Checking in on the Kansas/UCLA game at half, I like what UCLA is doing. It seemed the Bruins had a bit of difficulty through the first 10 minutes meeting Kansas' intensity, but they soon woke up. They closed out the half on a 12-2 run, thanks to a terrific play by Arron Afflalo at the buzzer. I'm not sure I've ever seen Afflalo give up the ball in a situation like that, and Kansas didn't look like it had, either. As the Jayhawks got sucked in, Afflalo calmly found Josh Shipp in the corner, and Shipp calmly drained the 3. That's the UCLA team I saw for most of the year.

No comments: