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12/02/2006 07:00:00 PM
The Greatest One-Handed Center ... Ever?
Despite wearing a thick brace on his right hand, Greg Oden still blocked five shots in 23 minutes.
The crowd at Value City Arena started roaring at the 16:40 mark of the first half on Saturday, with their team trailing Valparaiso 4-2. The cheers were not in appreciation of the Ivan Harris 3-pointer that would soon find the bottom of the net, but rather because a giant had just risen off of the Ohio State bench.
So much anticipation had built up for the debut of Greg Oden, the No. 1-rated freshman in the country, that he received a standing ovation for simply stepping on the floor when he entered the game at 16:01. The 7-footer had been rehabbing his right wrist for months since having surgery in June, and had it wrapped heavily in a black brace on Saturday. As he bent into defensive position for his first collegiate possession, he blew into his injured hand -- a gesture that reminded us that he hadn't seen live game action since June, and might be, well, a little cold coming out of the gate.
Oden had become such a folk hero that you yearned for him to immediately do something superhuman, like a backboard-shattering dunk or a swat into the crowd. The reality, however, was that he was essentially playing with one hand and needed time to get into the groove.
He leaped for a block attempt on the first play, but Urule Igbavboa's shot went over his outstretched arm and swished to put the visitors up 6-5. Soon after, a fast-breaking Crusader threw a bounce pass through Oden's legs for a layup. The first time he touched the ball on offense, on a wild feed from fellow freshman Mike Conley Jr., the ball bounced off Oden's hands and out of bounds; the third time he received it in the post, he traveled. When he made his first trip to the free-throw line, at 12:56, he had to shoot left-handed, but did it from a funky-looking righty stance, hitting one of two.
And then, late in the first half, the awkwardness and rust gave way to raw talent, his ailing wrist be damned. His first block and field goal were recorded within 15 seconds of each other, and the impact of his mere presence in the lane started to become noticeable. Valpo's offense, which had attacked the basket early, was stricken with Odenphobia: a fear of getting stuffed in the lane.
In the second half, Oden became the Buckeyes' focal point on both sides of the floor. His game was not graceful, but he bulled his way to 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. In one possession he blocked two Valpo shots within three seconds of each other, and made a disgusted face afterward, as if he were appalled that the Crusaders would re-attempt to score on him after being denied the first time. Valpo's Moussa Mbaye, the 6-9, 225-pound center who drew the unenviable assignment of guarding Oden, was repeatedly overpowered on the block, and the Crusaders resorted to fouling Oden frequently -- he attempted 15 lefty free throws, making eight.
Considering that Oden was such a force despite extremely limited use of his dominant hand -- and that he posted his double-double in just 23 minutes of playing time, the late-arriving star's potential seems limitless. As one TV announcer remarked on Saturday, "When he's completely healthy, he may be illegal." Indeed, it's hard to imagine many post players, even in the Big Ten, having the ability to hold their ground when he backs his 280-pound frame into the lane and drop-steps to the basket.
The Buckeyes team that routed Valpo 78-58 contrasted greatly in style to the one that hung with North Carolina, before falling 98-89, in Chapel Hill on Wednesday. That Ohio State squad, sans Oden, was more exciting to watch, running and gunning, relying on the playmaking skills of senior Ron Lewis and freshman Daequan Cook. But it was also more unstable, willing to decide its fate from beyond the 3-point line (it made 13-of-26 against the Heels). The Oden team, at least on Saturday, was less dynamic -- but looked more ready for the long haul in the Big Ten, with a center who plays strong interior defense and provides balance to its perimeter prowess on offense.
After offering cautious estimates of a Jan. 2 debut, the Buckeyes trotted out their big prize much earlier than expected. Living up to the hype will be a daunting task for Oden, but after finally seeing him in action, one has to wonder: Once he's freed from the constraints of the wrist brace, will anyone be able to stop him?
Fantastic talent and right on time...but maybe in the long run the team may be just as good playing a more guard oriented transition game. I almost think that in the game against UNC playing at such a fast pace Oden would be 3.5' tall and not 7'. Does he have the staminia to run and be effective...and not get into foul trouble? if he doesn't i like the team that took the floor against UNC the first time...against most teams. Ohio State shooting above 50% taking a high number of 3's and driving to the basket with solid guard play is more scary than centering the game around Oden. Although, teams that like to play a slow game and post up will have lots of problems against Oden. it will be hard for them to fit Oden in on the transistion game for a entire game against the better teams.
Ohio state against UNC was scary, but I think Blogsmog could be on to something. No one doubts Odens ability to play in a half court set. But you have to wonder whether he can keep up with the teams that like to get out and run right now. Half of teams like UNC's offense come from not allowing the defense to get set up, and therefore getting easy shots. Does Ohio St. play anyone good in the next few weeks?
Also, I honestly don't think he needs to put up the numbers people predict for them to win. Their guards are very good and Ron Lewis was outstanding vs UNC. With the way they shoot and drive, you might not need Oden to do more than play good defense and get tons of rebounds. Anyone think having him in the paint will clog it and make it hard to drive?, like it does for Hansbrough and UNC.
Blogsmog, interesting points and as a fan and alumnus, I may be concerned. However, knowing that Oden, Conley, and Cook have played together in AAU for years (Oden and Conley are HS teammates), I just think that it's just conditioning and rust that Oden will overcome (and despite that, it was a pretty good performance for a 1st game w/ limited minutes - not that u implied otherwise). I see a very balanced team in the near future. Matta has the players for his system.
I think the real questions is how will Matta play with Oden. If they play one in and four out with Oden taking minutes from Terwilliger and Hunter, Oden runs as well as those two so you will see the wide-open running game still. If Oden plays with one of the other two at the four position then I think you will see more half court offense.
WITH A GUY LIKE ODEN, I DON'T KNOW THAT IT MATTERS WHAT TYPE OF OFFENSIVE SET THAT YOU RUN. HE IS GOING TO BE A DOMINANT FORCE IN THIS LEAGUE FOR AT LEAST THIS YEAR, HOPEFULLY MORE. HIS BASKETBALL IQ AND OVERALL UNDERSTANDING OF THE GAME IS WHAT IS GOING TO SHINE IN THE COMING MONTHS.
does ohio state play anyone good in the next few weeks?....the bucks knew coming into this yr they had talent...thad matta knew to schedule tournament tested teams, so our young squad would be ready...take a look at the buckeyes schedule, playing Florida (a battle for the best bball/football school in the USA)..cincy and will have to play a tough wisconsin team 2wice before march. Thad plays about 9 players in a game, and mixes and matches his lineups..Odens injury and subsequent recovery will only make this team better and scarier come march. And as far as oden HURTING the buckeyes in the long run, thinking the best true center to come play college bball in some 20 plus years could HURT them is both halarious and redciulous. If somehow having him in our lineup hurts our team im sure thad will take him out and go small if need be. But all this is moot. before we get into BIG 10 play the bucks will have played ON THE ROAD the defending champs AND heavily favored UNC*(without our 7 foot 280 pound"burden"). The buckeyes will be big ten champs and a one seed in this years tournament.
haha...are you kidding me? did you even watch the game against UNC? the buckeyes were destroyed inside, and Oden will bring that inside presence (5 blocks, and a double-double in 23 mins) that they need. once he's on the block you can't stop him...he's 280 lbs! and, you can't win by living and dying by the 3, you need a more stabilized offense. by the time the Buckeyes get to the tournament, they will have played one of the toughest schedules in the country...so they will definitely be ready to handle anyone they face come March.
The inside for Ohio State was lacking, but their outside was fast and efficient. They were better than all teams we have faced this year. I don't recall them missing a shot in the first half from the outside in the UNC game. The second half they failed to shoot as well and it punished them. Live by the three, die by the three. UNC matches up better to them with Oden and the future possibility of a rematch is exciting. UNC will continue to develop guard play and a well balanced attack as will Ohio State. They are a much more complete team. I welcome the future match-up having no doubt UNC will be in the championship vs. Ohio State.
While I believe that Greg Oden is a tremendous talent, he is not the all around player that Kevin Durant is. Oden will be a serviceable center in the NBA for many years to come. Durant will be an all-star and have a better career.
You guys hate to give credit where it is due. Transition teams don't win championships. The point is when the three balls stop going and your SG is in a funk you need a strong half court set to go to. ( Did you guys learn anything from the Shaq Kobe divorce and the staying power of the Spurs) Also, who says this guy can't play well enough in an up and down tempo. Did you happen to see the Blocks he dubbed out with one good hand. This guy is very critical of himself and works tremendously hard to get better. There has not been a dominant big man in the game in many years that can impose his will on a game on both ends and in as short a stint as he did in his debut. While durant may be more dynamic and even slightly more exciting to an offensive minded viewer. You need to respect Oden's workman like approach and his ability to completely shut down the paint sans Alonzo Mourning at G-town.
can't wait to revisit some of these points after the season! it is going to be a good one with the usual surprises. i would go ahead a predict Oden player of the year and a easy national championship title...but i wouldn't put the jinx on them like that...keeping in mind that the favored team or the team that everyone is talking about this time of the season never seems to make good. Last year at this time it was Duke with Shelden Williams avg. over 20 points 12 rebounds and 5 blocks a game and at this time last year Reddick was dropping like 30 points a game easy...and then they choked. if OSU does make it someone send a note to Oden reminding him not to call in hasty timeouts. (1993 Webber)
But UNC could score in the halfcourt. May got almost all his points in the half court. Oden is one of the fastest big men to ever come along. Even so, with big guys its not about speed as much as it is the willingness to run. Oden is a threat on the fast break as well as in the lane. He is a absolute stud. THe guy is going to be dominating by the end of the year in the most, physical and rugged conference in college basketball. Imagine if he played against less physical teams from the ACC.....
The real question is how well are the bench players going to play in Oden's place when he isn't in the game. That is were the money is and were the championship teams usually have come through. If the inside play off the bench isn't great it will be unlikely on his own. That is one reason some of the names mentioned here did not win a national championship (Wilt Chamberlain, Alonzo Mourning). A key reserve in the paint is critical...especially when that one bad game of the year shows up in a single elimination situation.
It's way to early to say that he is the greatest center ever. Now...with that being said,this kid will have an amazing impact on the game and the Buckeyes will be incredibly tough to beat. When he gets use of his good arm, he will be as close to unstoppable as you can get. When they meet UNC in the tournament in March,Hansborough will be crying all the way back to Chapel Hill.
Hansborough would be more than happy to make the extra pass to Wright or Terry for the dunk...leaving Oden and his cast of poor defenders scratching their knotty heads. A team like UNC has multiple scoring options in the paint and doesn't have to have the output from Hansborough that OSU has to have from Oden.