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It could happen

Five reasons why the Buckeyes can pull off the upset

Posted: Monday April 2, 2007 1:29AM; Updated: Monday April 2, 2007 5:41PM
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Ohio State center Greg Oden can impact a game at both ends of the floor.
Ohio State center Greg Oden can impact a game at both ends of the floor.
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Click here for five reasons Florida will win

ATLANTA -- First, a disclaimer. If Ohio State knocks off Florida Monday night, it will justifiably be viewed as a historic upset. The Gators have been the most dominant team in college basketball the past two seasons. They sit just one game away from repeating as national champion. And they've already beaten their title-game opponent by 26 points this season.

But the Buckeyes haven't won 22 straight by accident. And championship-game upsets do happen, from N.C. State's last-second stunner over Houston in 1983 to No. 8 Villanova over No. 1 Georgetown two years later. Most fittingly, even though it took place in a semifinal, there is Duke's win over UNLV in 1991.

Here's why another, historic upset will take place Monday night:

1. Greg Oden will have an epic performance.
After sitting nearly the entire first half against Georgetown in foul trouble, Ohio State's freshman center came out in the second half and showed just what a game-changing force he can be. After struggling early in the tournament, Oden has been on a tear the past three games. He seems to play with an extra purpose whenever the matchup involves a highly regarded opposing big man (like the Hoyas' Roy Hibbert).

"He gets that killer instinct in his eye," said longtime teammate Mike Conley Jr. Imagine what kind of adrenaline will be flowing through the outwardly stoic 7-footer at the opportunity to not only play against Florida's Joakim Noah and Al Horford, but to redeem himself for an unmemorable performance on Dec. 23 when he was still playing with "one hand." As long as Ted Valentine (the notoriously whistle-happy official who sent Oden to the bench so quickly against Georgetown) isn't working the game, it's possible to envision Oden turning in a dominant, championship-caliber performance.

2. Mike Conley Jr. may be the best player on the floor.
National championship teams have traditionally been led by dynamic point guards, and the Buckeyes have arguably the best one in the country. Yes, you read that right. Overshadowed most of the season by Oden and other freshman stars (Kevin Durant), Conley has emerged during the tournament as one of the elite, playmaking point guards, regardless of age. "He has a gift," said OSU assistant coach Dan Peters. "I don't know how to explain it."

Conley's skills will be of particular value against a Florida team whose defense often disrupts the offensive rhythm of its opponents. The Buckeyes will rely on Conley to break down the Gators with his speed and ballhandling. They'll be looking for him to find the appropriate mistmatch on the floor, whether it's firing to guard Ron Lewis for an open three or getting it into Oden when he's hot. "Because their defense is so good, trying to get a quality shot against them is going to be very important," said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. "Michael has a lot to do with that process."

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