By Chris Le
- Ohio St. (26-3) clinched the Big Ten title and avenged a previous loss to top ranked Wisconsin (26-4), defeating the Badgers 49-48. The game involved two leading candidates for the Naismith and Wooden awards, Greg Oden and Alando Tucker, but neither was overly impressive.
Tucker found himself in foul trouble in the first half and was held to just 12 points on 5-15 shooting. He had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds, but was blocked by Ron Lewis as time expired.
As usual, I was expecting a lot from Oden, and he had a decent game by his lofty standards. I noticed that his offense is getting better, and that he has developed a go-to move—a fairly effective jump hook. The problem is, it seems to be his only post shot he has in his repertoire. He seriously needs to beef up his arsenal, especially his face-up game; but the bright side is that Oden has the athleticism, footwork, and balance to be a diverse scorer in the paint.
Two things I love about Oden: his blocking ability and the way he boxes out. I can see the similarities between Oden and Bill Russell, in that Oden utilizes his left hand to alter shots as much as he does his dominant right hand. Oden also never swats at the ball, but instead keeps it in play, directing the rock to a teammate, essentially starting a fast break on his own.
Then there’s his boxing out. If you watch Oden underneath the boards, you’ll notice that he fights as hard as anyone in the country; this is a big reason why he leads the Big Ten Conference in rebounding with 9.7 a game. Yet, Oden’s ability to box out isn’t limited to boarding. I loved how he sealed off his man, providing his teammates with huge, uncontested lanes for lay-ups. Very Tim Duncan-like.
It was also nice to see Oden get on the floor, fighting for loose balls. This was the first game in which I’ve seen Oden do this, and he did it twice!
- Ohio St. has all the ingredients of a championship team, but I still wouldn’t call them a lock for the Final Four. Though there’s no doubting the potency of their offense or Oden’s defensive impact, they’re awfully young and prone to mental errors. What worries me more than their inexperience, though, is their inconsistent perimeter shooting. From all the OSU games I’ve seen, they’ve been too reliant on the predictable formula of feeding Oden in the post, who after a double-team dishes out to an open teammate. Will the Buckeyes nail their shots when the pressure of March Madness is on the shoulders of their young guards?
- Preceding the OSU-Wisconsin game, Duke (22-7) easily dismantled St. John’s (15-14) 76-50, limiting the Red Storm to 10 first half points. It appears that the Blue Devils are back in tournament form with a resurgence in offense due to the efforts of Greg Paulus (19 points, 5-7 from behind the arc), DeMarcus Nelson, and Jon Scheyer. Sophomore, Josh McRoberts, remains content on being a secondary scorer, contributing only 9 points, but it’s impossible to ignore his all-around ability. With 6 blocks, McRoberts played particularly well on defense—an aspect of his game that I believe to be very underrated.
All season, Duke has played exceptional defense. It’s just now that their offense is catching up. Don’t count out the Blue Devils in the tournament just yet. They could shock some people. That is, if you even consider a Duke run in late March a rarity.
- LeBron James and his Cavs were duds once again in losing to the Wade-less Miami Heat 86-81. As a team, the Cavs shot .360 from the field.
It was good to see Shaquille O’Neal (19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists) as active as he was. If Shaq continues to play like he gives a damn, perhaps the Heat are playoff bound.
I also loved how, in the final minute of the game, ABC quickly cut to the Oscars’ red carpet special. They couldn’t wait 30 seconds for the game to finish? Was it that imperative to discuss red carpet fashion two hours before anyone of real importance showed up?