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Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
1/23/2007 08:00:00 AM

Style Archive Update No. 3

This is the third expansion of The Style Archive, which opened on Dec. 4, 2006, and has since grown to 26 exhibits. It's a blog-museum of sorts, dedicated to the most interesting stylistic elements of college hoops, from hairdos, to flair, to YouTube-worthy moves. Below are the six most recent additions; the complete Archive can be found here.

(Readers are encouraged to make archive nominations either in the blog comments or by e-mailing hoopstylesi@gmail.com, and will be credited on the site for any successful suggestions.)

>> Jan. 23 Exhibits <<

Yo, Vanilla!
Levon Kendall, 6-10 forward, Sr., Pitt
Classification: Retro Vanilla Ice 'do
Spotted: Jan. 16 vs. UConn by The Blog
Notes: Big ups to Kendall for bringing back the cut worn by Robert Matthew Van Winkle in the early '90s. Kendall is stopping, collaborating and listening on the hardwood (as well as averaging 5.7 points per game).

The No-Tie Look
Tony Bennett, head coach, Washington State
Classification: Semi-formal coaching attire
Spotted: Jan. 16 in Seth Davis' Hoop Thoughts
Notes: The 37-year-old Bennett took over the Cougars after his father, Dick, retired in March 2006. Will Tony's instant success -- he's led Wazzu from the Pac-10 cellar to the top 25 -- start a sideline style trend?

The Vault II
Deron Washington, 6-7 forward, Jr., Virginia Tech
Classification: Posterizing layup
Spotted: Jan. 6 at Duke by the Blog
Notes: The Blue Devils' Greg Paulus would like to forget what Washington did to him at Cameron -- a crotch-in-the-face vault for a clutch layup -- but this play will be immortalized on YouTube.

The Clarence Clemons
Warren Carter, 6-9 forward, Sr., Illinois
Classification: Messy, spiked-out hairdo
Spotted: Jan. 14 at Michigan State by the Blog
Notes: We're calling Carter's look the Clarence Clemons -- rather than the Ernie (from Sesame Street), as one friend suggested -- because it looks exactly like this photo of the E Street Band saxophonist.

The Frizzled Frosh
Robin Lopez, 7-0 center, Fr., Stanford
Classification: Unkept curly 'fro
Submitted by: Stanford student Michael Lazar
Notes: Lopez is, to our knowledge, the second player (after Wazzu's Derrick Low) who keeps his mane in check with an accessory running over, rather than around, his head. It's a good way to tell him apart from his twin.

The Dangling Mouthpiece
D.J. Augustin, 5-11 guard, Fr., Texas
Classification: Constantly visible mouth flair
Spotted: Jan. 20 at Villanova by the Blog
Notes: Augustin, Kevin Durant's partner in crime on the Baby 'Horns, is bringing back a look that Illinois' Dee Brown was known for in 2003-04: He uses a mouthpiece, but never keeps it completely inside his mouth.

UPDATED: The Polynesian Revival
Derrick Low, 6-2 guard, Jr., Wash. State
Classification: Hip-to-ankle tattoo
Spotted: Dec. 28 at UCLA by the Blog
Notes: Originally we called this a knee-length tat -- but in the process of writing this story we learned the real details on the traditional Hawaiian tattoo Low got in the summer of 2006.

UPDATED: Great Oden's Beard
Greg Oden, 7-0 center, Fr., Ohio State
Classification: Old-man facial hair
Spotted: Jan. 17 vs. Northwestern by The Blog
Notes: Oden began the season with a 40-year-old's grizzly beard, but shaved it in advance of the Buckeyes' Jan. 17 date against Northwestern. He's no longer being asked for his birth certificate prior to games.

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12/29/2006 02:58:00 PM

Style Archive Update No. 2

The Style Archive debuted on Dec. 4 with 14 exhibits, and then added four more on Dec. 21, including "The Dove" and "The Screech Fro." This is our second expansion.

(The complete Style Archive, with all exhibits, can be found here. Readers, remember to make nominations either in the blog comments or to hoopstylesi@gmail.com. You'll be credited on the site for any successful suggestions.)

>> Dec. 29 Add-Ons <<

Great Oden's Beard
Greg Oden, 7-0 center, Fr., Ohio State
Classification: Grizzly-old-man beard
Spotted: Dec. 23 at Florida by Commenter
Notes: An anonymous commenter noted that the beard Oden has been sporting of late "looks like an artist's depiction of LeBron in 15 years." Oden told SI that he's highly amused by his old-man rep.

Knee-length Tat
Derrick Low, 6-2 guard, Jr., Wash. State
Classification: Diamond-patterned leg tattoo
Spotted: Dec. 28 at UCLA by the Blog
Notes: Low, the Hawaiian PG who has led Wazzu's surprise start, has a diamondback-like tattoo that runs from his left sockline into his shorts. He also has Archive-worthy hair, but we're still looking for a good photo.

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12/23/2006 07:27:00 PM

What We Learned From ... Florida-Ohio State

Ohio State's Greg Oden couldn't make a move without Al Horford or one of his Gator teammates hounding the Buckeye freshman.
Jimmy DeFilippo/US PRESSWIRE
Three things learned from watching No. 5 Florida's 86-60 rout of No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday ...

1. Al Horford delivered one of the gutsiest performances you'll see all year.

I think Billy Donovan was being honest Thursday, when he told reporters his leading scorer and rebounder, Al Horford, was a no-go for the Ohio State game with a high (left) ankle sprain. "It's just obvious right now with what he has movement-wise, he can't play," Donovan said. And this was a buzz-kill: We had worried for so long that the Buckeyes' frontcourt phenom, Greg Oden, wouldn't be available for this clash -- and now we were getting Oden, but likely having to watch him against a shell of a Florida team.

By Friday, though, we were hearing that Horford -- who had missed the Gators' previous two games -- was feeling good enough to practice. Then on game-day (once team doctors had said the injury couldn't be worsened by playing) it was announced Horford was available, although he wouldn't start. At that point, the realistic expectation was he would be able to offer a few, adrenaline-fueled stretches off the bench.

Horford went and did something else instead: He entered the game at the 17:44 mark of the first half, went on play 25 minutes and was the unquestioned star of the afternoon, delivering an 11-point, 11-rebound performance on his bum ankle. He thoroughly outplayed Oden, who had seven points and four rebounds in 28 minutes. He logged four more minutes and had four more points than healthy teammate Joakim Noah. Never mind what Donovan or the doctors said earlier in the week -- it seemed as if Horford came in believing he could still take over the game.

His biggest moments all occurred in the second half, when Florida turned a reasonably close game into a slaughter. After Oden picked up his third foul -- and went to the bench -- at the 16:47 mark, Horford threw down two dunks to extend Florida's lead to double-digits. When he grabbed his 10th rebound with just under 12 minutes left, he turned into a 6-foot-10 point guard, dribbling the ball up the floor and feeding the Gators' actual floor general, Taurean Green, for a 3. That put Florida up 15, at 60-45, and when Ohio State called a timeout, a fiery Noah came flying off the bench to greet Horford at half court, hugging him and screaming in his face in vintage Noah fashion.

"I was able to be aggressive, like I always am," Horford said. "I definitely felt more comfortable in the second half."

Minutes later, Horford bulled his way into Oden in the lane, drawing the freshman 7-footer's fourth foul. By that point, Ohio State's young star looked defeated. He was unable to make aggressive defensive moves in the paint, and was lagging far behind his teammates in running up the floor. Battling with Noah, Chris Richard, and especially the hobbled Horford had simply been too exhausting.

"It had to be hard on Greg," Donovan said. "We were throwing two and even three guys at him and he had to guard different people each time. Our guards also drove to the basket and made him leave the inside guys defensively. So we really made him work."

2. Contrary to popular belief, you can zone Ohio State.

Three days before Oden was healthy enough to make his debut, the Buckeyes established an early rep as one of the nation's most dangerous perimeter teams by hitting 13-of-26 3-pointers against North Carolina on Nov. 29. Florida bucked conventional wisdom Saturday, playing large stretches of the game in a 2-3 zone -- and OSU couldn't capitalize, especially in the first half, when they shot just 2-of-9 from long distance (the Buckeyes would finish 6-of-24).

Corey Brewer and Green extended the edges of the zone out far enough to put pressure on OSU's best shooters, and yet the strategy still allowed the Gators to contain Oden. Early in the game, while guarded by Richard and Horford, Oden was surprisingly passive about finding gaps and demanding the ball in the lane. Now, not every team is going to be able to get away with zoning Ohio State. But if you have athletes like Florida does, who can ensure the Buckeyes won't get wide-open looks from beyond the arc, throwing a zone at them isn't a death wish.

3. After struggling early on, Florida is finally playing like a title team again.

I had been harsh on the Gators, leaving them out of this week's Power Rankings -- but not because I didn't think they were capable of being one of the nation's elite teams. They had only played two games against decent opponents (Kansas and Florida State), and lost both. I was just waiting for Florida to play like ... well, Florida.

That's what finally happened Saturday, when the Gators thrashed a team that will likely finish the year in the top 10, and shot 58.6 percent from the field in the process. Horford's gritty showing helped Florida dominate OSU on the glass by a margin of 37-20, and Florida's three perimeter starters (Green, Brewer and Lee Humphrey) combined for 54 points.

"These games are a test and Ohio State was like the exam," Noah said. "For the first semester, we passed it. We get an A. We're going to do it all over again in the second semester."

What was one of the most highly anticipated games of the regular season didn't turn into a thriller, but it served a different purpose. For all of us who lauded the Gators' stars for staying in school after winning a national championship, and then recently had worried that they might not make a run at another title, those doubts were erased.

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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?

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