Georgetown-Ohio State Final Four Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/30/2007
I have a little secret. Well, considering the subject matter, it's not so little. But it's a secret, well enough. That is, until you keep reading and what I have to say seeps into your consciousness. Then it's a secret no more. Because the only way a secret can be held between three people is if two of them are dead.
But my secret is that when Ohio State and Georgetown tangle at 6 p.m. EST Saturday night in Atlanta's Georgia Dome to settle one national semifinal, the key to the game will have very little to do with either Greg Oden or Roy Hibbert.
That's right. All week both of these seven-footers have been blocking out the front pages of sports pages and snatching the headlines like some errant elbow jumper off the rim. These two behemoths have earned the respect and awe of players, coaches, fans and followers of men's college basketball for what they've done this year. They are arguably the two best centers in the amateur game and two of the most imposing presences left in The Big Dance.
But they still aren't going to decide who moves on to the National Championship Game.
Ohio State was originally posted as a one-point favorite over Georgetown. But a rush of money steamed the line on a pendulum to the other side. Currently, the Hoyas are one-point favorites. Apparently, bettors couldn't decide which big man was better. The total for this game rests at 129.5.
So by now you're asking yourself, "If the big men aren't going to be the key to the game then what is?" That's a fantastic question, because what I think directly contradicts everything you've been hearing about and reading about throughout the whole sordid Sports World. But in this handicapper's humble opinion this game will come down to four factors:
1) How will Ohio State defend Georgetown?
The Hoyas run a modified Princeton offense and their familiarity with each other makes them devastating at times. Their bigs can step out and pass with precision, their guards can both shoot and finish near the basket and main threat Jeff Green can do just about anything. The Hoyas shoot 50.6 percent from the field - good for No. 3 in the country.
Ohio State plays fantastic perimeter defense - evidenced by the fact that they did a much better job of neutralizing Memphis' quirky weave offense than Texas A&M - so OSU coach Thad Matta may be tempted to school his boys all week on how to eliminate the backdoor cuts and fade-screens. That would be a mistake. I think Ohio State needs to feature a 2-3 and/or a 1-3-1 zone against Georgetown. The Hoyas do shoot 37-percent from three-point land but they have only one starter - Jonathan Wallace - who shoots over 40 percent and he can be tagged.
The Hoyas have lost exactly once in their past 20 games. That game was against Syracuse - the Masters of the 2-3 zone - and it was only the third time since early December that Georgetown was held below 60 points.
2) Jeff Green vs. Ron Lewis.
Green is the do-it-all leader for Georgetown. A jack of all trades, master of none, he is the catalyst and touchstone for this Hoyas team. The junior is a veteran and the team's unquestioned go-to guy.
Lewis is a senior on a team led by freshman. He is the calm in the middle of any storm and the money man when the team needs scoring from the perimeter. It was Lewis that extended the Buckeyes' season with that cold-blooded 3-pointer to send the Xavier game to overtime.
Whichever upperclassman is better - by that I mean more forceful and more assertive - in the first eight minutes and the last eight minutes of this game will lead his team to victory. They need to set the tone and their teams will follow. I almost guarantee if you add up which player had better numbers after those two time periods you'll have figured out which team won.
3) The Role Players.
As important as Oden and Hibbert are, their role players' value may be even more significant. It's a given that both big men will spend time on the bench with foul trouble. It happens every game. But what each team needs on Saturday is for their backups to contribute any way they can.
Ohio State is passed off as Oden and a bunch of guards. Not true. Ivan Harris (6-feet-7), Othello Hunter (6-9), Matt Terwilliger (6-8) and David Lighty (6-5) are all capable scorers underneath and strong low-post defenders and rebounders. They combine to average 19.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, including 14 points and 11.5 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.
Georgetown has a rather shallow bench, relying mostly on Patrick Ewing Jr. to provide a physical and emotional spark. Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers also see minutes, but they combine with Ewing to offer just 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds.
4) Who will shoot best from deep?
If you look at the statistical breakdown of each of these teams they are amazingly similar. Offensive and defensive field goal percentages, points per game, percentage of offense that comes from 3-pointers, rebounding and even free throw percentages are all nearly identical. Georgetown shoots 37.1 percent from deep and Ohio State shoots 36.9 percent, while both hold their opponents to less than 33 percent 3-point shooting.
Over their past 10 games they've both averaged around 17 3-point attempts. Whichever one shoots a higher percentage in their first 15 attempts (anything after that will likely be out of desperation) will likely be your winner.
So there you have it. I've just given you four things that are going to go further in determining the outcome of this game than the two big men. The main reason for that is because you know what you're going to get from Oden and Hibbert - 13-19 points, 10-14 rebounds, 4-7 blocks and around 28 minutes on the floor. But because these teams are so evenly matched it's going to come down to game plan, execution and something as intangible as who has the hot hand.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.