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11/06/2006 12:24:00 PM
The Oden Effect
It could be 2007 before we see Greg Oden on the court in an Ohio State jersey.
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
The preseason question I hear most -- even more frequently than "Can Florida repeat?" -- is about Ohio State's Greg Oden. People primarily want to know when the big guy, who had surgery on his right wrist this summer to repair ligament damage, will play his first college game. The answer is that he started physical therapy late last week (after having a screw removed from the wrist) and the Buckeyes are targeting their Jan. 2 Big Ten opener against Indiana for his debut.
They'd obviously love to activate Oden sooner if he's ready; and on the flipside there's still a remote chance he could come back even later if the rehab isn't on schedule. OSU had been taking weekly X-rays of Oden's wrist, and when I talked with Buckeyes coach Thad Matta a few weeks ago, he said that if one indicates his prize center has miraculously healed, "you'll be able to hear me yelling." He was well aware that I was on the East Coast.
There's a different Oden question that I'm more interested in, though -- and it's one that's bound to come up in March: How will his late arrival affect OSU's NCAA tournament seed?
I recently posed a couple of hypothetical scenarios to a trusted tourney source to get an idea of how they might be addressed by the selection committee. The first had Oden returning on Jan. 2 to an 11-2 team that had been killed by North Carolina and Florida, but with the big guy in the lineup, went on to win the Big Ten regular-season title. Would those early losses be completely forgiven by the committee because Oden wasn't involved? And would the Buckeyes be cut some slack in consideration for a No. 1 seed?
The feeling I got was that while early losses wouldn't be entirely ignored, OSU would get special consideration as long as it's clear that Oden had a measurable impact on its success down the stretch. If he changes games and puts up big numbers, than the Buckeyes will be evaluated as a different team. The Oden Effect could end up being the reverse of the Kenyon Martin Injury from 2000, where Cincinnati was demoted from a No. 1 seed after losing their Wooden Award winner to a broken right fibula during the C-USA tournament. The Buckeyes could get a minor promotion, perhaps from a 3 to a 2, or a 2 to a 1. If (by chance) Oden turns out to just be a role player, than OSU's entire body of work is more likely to be evaluated on the same level.
The second scenario is more improbable: What happens if Oden's wrist doesn't heal as quickly as expected, and as a cautionary measure, OSU waits until midway through Big Ten play -- say, 23 games into a 30-game regular season -- for his unveiling? If the Buckeyes were .500 in the league at that point, but went on to win their last seven games and finish strong in the Big Ten tournament, how much impact could a run such as that have?
The committee, my source assured, would have to evaluate Ohio State's whole season -- especially since Oden would only have played in one-third of the games. A couple of important factors would come into play, though: First, a team's last 10 games are used, for seeding and selection purposes, as a "snapshot" of how well it's playing heading into the dance -- and the Buckeyes could finish strong with Oden. Second, the committee also considers factors such as how much a good young team has gelled down the stretch, and therefore might be more willing to overlook early losses. The Buckeyes would probably be looking at a bump in this scenario, too -- although more like from a 5 to a 4, or a 4 to a 3.
Fans of other NCAA tournament teams shouldn't get upset. The committee has been using the same set of rules to deal with injury cases for years. No unique exceptions will be made for Oden. And believe me, it's better off if Ohio State gets seeded in the right place. Do you think some unlucky major-conference champ wants to get stuck with Oden's Buckeyes in their region as a No. 5?
Perhaps we should wait until Ohio State actually plays a game until we speculate on where they will be seeded in the tournament. My bet is they don't even win the Big Ten (with or without Oden) with a much more experienced and deeper Wisconsin Badger team lurking.
The G-unit will make a big impact on their team, and it will definitely favor the buckeyes in their seed. Oden is such a weapon that he could vault them even farther than they may deserve, but that all depends on his wrist.
It's going to be just like it was last year, just like it is all the time. The Big-Ten teams, including Ohio State, are going to crash and burn in the tourney. Their brand of basketball just does not stack up to the game being played in the ACC, the Big East, or heck even in the Missouri Valley!
I'm sure Oden is an extraordinary talent and if he would've had the opportunity to play and practice with team USA he would've come into Big Ten play and dominated. But that didn't happen. If he were joining a veteran squad and were the missing catalyst, they would be cream of crop elite. But, aside from Butler, who can ball, they are not veteran.
All the hype is making me ill. Tell me he's basketball Jesus after he's dominated a couple conference road games, then I will listen.
In the meantime, the Wisconsin Badgers are finally getting the respect they deserve. Experience, quality depth, versatility, and a battle tested go-to guy in Alondo Tucker. They have some tough games before conference play begins, and their identity has already begun to take shape from their Italian swing. Hands down, the team to beat in the Big Ten.
Can we forget about the seeding question for the moment, and talk about the fact that you posted the wrong picture. I don't know who that is, but he is at least 30 years old, if not more, by the looks of him. I have seen many and 18-year old, and that man is NOT 18-years old. Not even close.
Play through pain and risk further injury to your body, and the millions of dollars you will be making in a year? hmm, what would I do? (besides take the year off and wait to be drafted)
For all the people commenting on the picture, particularly "Ive seen alot of 18 year olds and that isn't one" The question is, how many 7' 240 pound 18 year olds do you know?
Also, I hate to say it, because I despise all teams who are not in connecticut and have a Husky for their mascot, If this kid were playing a full season, they would be my pick for the championship.
There is not one center in college basketball who will be able to stop him. Gray at Pitt is way too slow, as is Hibbert at Georgetown. Noah? Please, hes a twig. Living in FL now and seeing Florida games alot (including the first round of the 06 tourney in person) I can say that he is the most overrated player Ive seen since Dunleavy was at Duke. (Do you think Golden state is glad they drafted him ahead of Caron Butler and others?)
I guess my point is that even with him not there a full season, they very well may end up good enough to win it.
People talk about teams like Ohio St., UConn, Duke etc. being too young this year. The thing is, those schools get top line recruits. by the end of the season these players will likely evolve into dominating figures. You could see any of those 3 in the last game of the season this year. And with Uconn and Duke star players tendency to stick around for 2 or 3 years, Im gonna go ahead and pick them for next years final four already.
Youth doesn't matter in college basketball like it used to. Coaches play players if they have the talent. That's all there is to it, and this kid has NBA starter talent, and as you will all see soon, college DOMINATION talent.
Despite the fact that Oden sat in front of my buddies at the Borat show last weekend (thus impeding their view of the entire screen), he seems like a great kid. I just moved to Columbus from Indy last year, and I can't wait to watch the Buckeyes rip through the tourney this year, and cut down some nets (the regional ones at least). Also, much is said about Oden due to his freakish size and athleticism, but wait until you see the rest of the team...Butler and Lewis (and Terwilliger??)providing the leadership, and Conley, Cook, Lighty, Hunter, etc. lighting teams up. It's a good year to be a Buckeye, that's for sure.