Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ohio State vs. Florida Postgame

Well, that sucked. Ohio State lost, 86-60. The Buckeyes were outshot, outrebounded, and outplayed by the Gators. Mike Conley played well for the Buckeyes, posting 13 points, five rebounds, and seven assists. He also played pretty well defensively, chipping in three steals. He was outscored by his counterpart from Florida, Taurean Green, who went for 24 points. Conley's the only Buckeye who I thought played well.

Greg Oden had seven points, seven rebounds, and four blocks. Florida, surprisingly, had success driving to the basket in the second half. I chalk this up to Oden being tired, since Othello Hunter did not play well. As a result, Oden played most of the second half, and by the end of the game, didn't look much better than Hunter (and that's a bad thing). It raises the question: why didn't Matt Terwilliger play before garbage time? True, he's not as talented as Oden or Hunter, but he can be a solid player, and solid's what we needed from Oden's backup. Hunter seemed almost invisible when Florida went into the lane; someone who was tangible would have been an improvement.

Regardless, Oden was outplayed by his counterpart from the Gators, who turned out to be not Joakim Noah, but Al Horford. Apparently, when Billy Donovan said "He's not going to play," he meant Horford was going to play 27 minutes. He had a double-double, going for 11 points and 11 rebounds.

But whether Horford played or not, the Gators were going to win. They made 50% of their threes; the Buckeyes made 35.9% of their total shots. Florida outrebounded Ohio State, 37-20. Ohio State had 13 turnovers to Florida's 16, but that's the only statistic where the Buckeyes had an advantage.

So what can we take from this? Well, this should quiet down the Oden hype for a while, though people shouldn't be too critical of a guy that still has a ways to go before he's healthy. And we've learned again that Ohio State loses when they can't make threes, but that's not exactly news. That the Buckeyes did so poorly on the glass was a concern. A perimeter-oriented team is going to get outrebounded by a team with two quality big men; that's not a surprise. But if the Buckeyes are going to be outrebounded by 2 to 1 margins, they are going to lose more games.

Looking at the big picture, though, I'm willing to trade a loss in the basketball game against Florida for a win in the football game. Here's hoping we get it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ohio State vs. Florida (Basketball) Preview

The first big game against the Gators comes tomorrow for the Buckeyes. To break it down, I will dust off the ol' Hypothetical Interviewer 9000.

Florida. They won the national championship last year, and they brought everyone back. Statistically, where do we have an advantage against these guys?
Well, we score a few more points per game than they do, but the shootout against VMI skews that a bit. We also defend the three a bit better than they do.

That's it?
Pretty much.

Not necessarily. Team statistics go to Florida, but matchups and player statistics go to the Buckeyes.

Prove it. Mike Conley versus Taurean Green.
I give that one to Conley. More assists in fewer minutes than Green, and fewer turnovers. Green shoots better from outside than Conley, and scores more points per game (12.8 vs. 9.7), but in terms of points per shot (because I'm too lazy to calculate PPWS, I use's PPS), Green's advantage is smaller. Conley also creates more steals. Conley passes better, turns the ball over less, forces more turnovers, and scores almost as well as Green, so I give him the nod.

Next: Jamar Butler versus Lee Humphrey.
Push. Humphrey's a better scorer by just about every measurable statistic, but Butler's much better in assists and assists/turnover ratio. Butler also forces more turnovers. So it depends on whether you need a scorer or a passer. I'd say both players have worked out pretty well for their teams.

Alright, how does Ron Lewis stack up against Corey Brewer?
Size-wise, not very well. Brewer's 6'9", Lewis is 6'4". I compare them only because Brewer plays the 3, while Lewis is a third guard. But oddly enough, they both produce similarly. Oddly enough, Brewer averages more assists (3.6 to 1.4). Brewer averages 4.4 boards per game, Lewis averages 4.0. Lewis outscores Brewer, 15.3 points to 11.1. But then, Lewis plays about five more minutes per game than Brewer, so Brewer actually holds an even bigger advantage in assists and rebounds, and Lewis's advantage in points is smaller. Lewis is, however, a more efficient scorer (1.66 PPS) than Brewer (1.30). So, again, it depends on what the team needs. Lewis is more of a pure scorer, while Brewer can do a variety of things. He's like a Swiss Army knife with a jumpshot, minus the corkscrew and crappy tweezers.

Next up, Al Horford versus-
Get with the times, 9000! Horford is not expected to play (HT: Buckeye Commentary).

Okay, who's his replacement? And who do we compare him to? Another post player like Othello Hunter or Ivan Harris? Or Daequan Cook, who plays more minutes?
So many questions. Well, Chris Richard, a 6'9" senior averaging 5.5 and 2.9, is expected to replace him. So, I suppose we should compare him to Harris, since Harris started the last game and will probably start this one. I think this matchup goes to the Buckeyes. Harris plays just three more minutes per game, but averages 5.9 more points and 1.4 more rebounds. Richard might be a little better inside, but Harris is much better outside. My impression of Richard (having seen little of Florida) is that he's not unlike Matt Terwilliger, capable but not outstanding. When Harris is making shots, he's outstanding.

And the most anticipated matchup: Greg Oden versus Joakim Noah.
Wednesday night, I watched the Ohio State women's team take on Oklahoma.

Warning: You are getting off topic. I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Sean.
You're creeping me out, HI9000. And I'm going somewhere with this. The highlight of the OSU-OU game was our Jessica Davenport versus their Courtney Paris. Paris is the hotshot young center, perhaps the best in women's college basketball, while Davenport is close behind, but much more experienced. OSU won, and Davenport had a good game. So did Paris, but Davenport made her work for it. Paris finished with 22 and 13, but on 10 of 24 shooting. Davenport had a less impressive, but more efficient, 14 and 10. That's sort of what I expect to happen here, with Oden in the young gun role, and Noah playing the savvy vet. Oden has the size and talent to get the points, but Noah has the talent and experience to make it difficult for Oden. Meanwhile Noah, a better passer than Oden, will be keeping his offense flowing, even if he's not getting good looks. I call it a push, in part because Oden still isn't 100%. But it'll be great to watch.

What about the bench?
I think this is an advantage for the Buckeyes. The Gators are about as deep as Ohio State, but they don't have anyone like Daequan Cook on the bench. With Horford out, they lose depth among their big men, which is good news for Hunter and Twiggy. And I haven't even mentioned David Lighty.

What does this all mean?
I think Florida will try to avoid getting into a fast-paced game. The loss of Horford gives them one less player, and if both teams need a lot of minutes from their benches, the advantage goes to the Buckeyes. Ohio State might let them slow it down, because they've been playing slower while trying to get the ball to Oden. If the Buckeyes are willing to run and take advantage of their athletes, I think it'll be good for them. And if their threes are falling, I don't think it matters what Florida does, the Buckeyes win. But if it's a slow game with Ohio State wasting possessions by shooting bricks from outside, Florida could win comfortably.

Summarize, for the readers who are too lazy to read the whole thing.
Florida's experience makes them more than the sum of their parts, but Ohio State's parts are better. The Gators are seriously hurt by the loss of Horford, but they're at home and do everything well. If Oden's effective and the threes are falling, OSU wins comfortably. If the Buckeyes' shooting is off, Florida can collapse on Oden. If they do that and execute on the offensive end, the Gators win.

Any prediction?
The Buckeyes haven't been shooting well lately; this would be a good time to get the outside shot back on track. I say they do. I further say that Oden will have his worst game of the year, going for something around 16 points and nine rebounds on shooting a bit under 50%. However, the Buckeyes do enough to beat the Horford-less Gators, 72-68.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post-Iowa State Thoughts

First of all, it was a win. Not only that, it was a 19 point win. Yay, first and foremost.

But (cliche alert!) it was a much closer game than the final score would indicate. Iowa State slowed the game down (59 possessions) and kept it close most of the time. It was mostly a game of mini-runs. Ohio State would open up an 8- or 10-point lead, then Iowa State would pull within two. The Cyclones shot pretty well on their three point attempts (38.5%), and did an okay job taking care of the ball for most of the game. But they turned the ball over three times late as OSU went on a run late to put the game away. The Buckeyes, for their part, played a very clean game, turning the ball over just eight times and committing just six fouls.

Greg Oden had his worst game of the season, and still posted 18 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes. The Cyclones did a pretty decent job on Oden, really, which opened things up for other players. Daequan Cook in particular benefited from the attention paid to Oden. Cook scored 21 points in 26 minutes, going three for five on his three point attempts. Mike Conley contributed 15 points and six assists, also leading the team in free throw attempts and makes (seven for seven). Ivan Harris had an Ivan Harrisy game, scoring six of his ten points on threes and contributing a little help rebounding (four boards). Ron Lewis and Jamar Butler didn't do much offensively (seven and zero points, respectively), but Butler did chip in seven assists. Interestingly, Othello Hunter and David Lighty only played fifteen minutes each. Playing matchups, recognition of off nights by Thad Matta, or a sign of things to come?

In related news, The Ozone reports that Oden says he might stick around all four years. As MotSaG points out, this is the right thing for him to say right now, and it's much easier to say when millions of dollars aren't staring him in the face. I'll still assume he's one-and-done, but the possibility of him staying is very intriguing. Assuming everyone else stays (Conley and Cook, I'm looking in your direction), our starters next year might look like this:

G - Mike Conley
G - Jamar Butler
G - Daequan Cook
F - Kosta Koufos (incoming 7' freshman)
C - Greg Oden

I gotta say, if I was putting together my ideal team, that's pretty close to the array of skills I'd want on it. A point guard that can distribute and penetrate, another guard that can shoot and pass, another guy that can score from anywhere, one seven-footer with some range, and another that's outstanding near the basket, offensively and defensively.

Again, probably won't happen, but it's fun to dream, isn't it?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Florida Week

If you're willing to overlook Iowa State's basketball team (and I am, so long as Thad Matta and company aren't), then we've reached a rather unusual part of the year, wherein the next opponent for both the football and basketball teams is the same school. Yes, it's Florida Week.

This follows a thorough beatdown of the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday. At the end of the first half, the Bearcats had 14 points. Ohio State had three times that. The game was never in doubt, which is especially impressive considering that the Buckeyes didn't shoot especially well, hitting just 26.1% of their threes and 43.1% of all their shots. But they got an extra 16 points from their 23 free throw attempts, and more importantly, Cincinnati shot even worse. The Bearcats hit 2 of 24 threes (8.3%), and just 26% overall. All of this is attributable in no small part to Greg Oden. When the shots aren't falling from outside, having an inside scoring presence comes in handy. And with a seven-feet tall shot blocking machine in the middle, the Buckeyes are free to go crazy on perimeter defense. So teams shoot outside, because they can't get shots off inside, which plays right into Ohio State's hands. Perimeter defense has been a strong suit of the Buckeyes since Matta arrived, and now that it only takes one player to adequately defend inside the arc, the perimeter D only gets stronger. The end result was a blowout, even with poor shooting from the Buckeyes.

So now the Buckeyes (after the ISU game on Tuesday) turn their attention to Florida. The football team beat the defending national champs at their place early in the season; now it's the basketball team's chance to do the same. A full preview will be coming later, but at a glance, it'll be an interesting matchup. Florida has experience, obviously, but that's not all. They have size in Al Horford (6'10") and Joakim Noah (6'11"). Neither is as big as Oden, but both are very good. Florida also has depth. Like Ohio State, none of their players average more than 30 minutes per game. Both teams also have nine players averaging at least ten minutes per game. It looks like it will be a heck of a matchup. If you're a fan of the Buckeyes, or basketball in general, you have to be looking forward to it.

And, of course, there's the matter of that bowl game coming up January 8th for the football team. Again, I'll save a preview for later, but I think you'll hear a thing or two about it as it gets closer. It's a pretty big game, I understand.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Slow Week

I haven't posted lately, but there's just not much to post about. The football team isn't doing much until that game they have in January that you may have heard about. The basketball team kicks off a week of pretty big games on Saturday, but until then, there's not a lot going on.

So, in the meantime, I'm doing a little work behind the scenes on the site. I'm working on a redesign, but getting things to look and work the way I want has proven to be a bit of a pain. But it's getting there.

While I'm doing that, you can take a look at a couple links that I've been meaning to post, if you so desire. First is My Casual Thoughts, a blog run by Andy, a Buckeye fan behind enemy lines in Ann Arbor. I finally added it to the sidebar a while ago, but I figured I'd mention it in a post.

Secondly, back when I was complaining about the National Championship ticket situation, I got mentioned over at SeatSmart's blog. It's a site with the goal of allowing fans better information about tickets, in part by searching several sites that sell tickets to return pricing info. Take a look, if you're so inclined.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Troy Smith's Place in Buckeye History

At some point during the season, about the time that the Heisman became Troy Smith's to lose, a friend of mine asked me if I thought Troy Smith's number would be retired. As I believe I have metioned before, I eventually decided that it would be if he won the Heisman, but it was tough to get used to the idea that I was watching one of the all-time great Buckeyes play.

Now, on the eve of the Heisman Trophy presentation, I've grown a little more accustomed to the idea. It's still hard to believe, but in more of a "wow, isn't this lucky?" sort of way. Look at this highlight video, or this one, or any of the ones you'll see on YouTube. The guy makes plays few others could make. He rarely makes a bad decision, and he regularly does unbelievable things.

In short, Troy Smith is the best quarterback in Ohio State football history.

If you look at statistics, Troy's numbers are great, but generally not amazing, which isn't too surprising. In terms of yardage, Joe Germaine, Bobby Hoying, and Art Schlichter are the only quarterbacks with better yardage than Troy, but he's not being asked to air it out like those guys were (only 41.6% of OSU's plays this season have been passes). In terms of rushing production, he's behind Cornelius Greene, among others, but he's not being asked to run like those guys.

If you're looking for statistics that define Troy Smith's contribution to this team, there are three you need to look at. The first is completion percentage. Troy owns the top two spots in completion percentage for a season, as well as the record for career completion percentage. The second statistic, related to the first, is pass efficiency. Troy is first and third in season pass efficiency, and first in career efficiency. The third statistic is touchdowns. His thirty touchdown passes this season is a record, and he's top five in career touchdown passes.

What's all this mean? Troy Smith gets the job done. Others might rack up more yards through the air or on the ground, but he scores the points and gets the wins. He executes the offense almost to perfection, and that shows up in the efficiency and touchdowns. And, of course, there's that 3-0 record as a starter against Michigan.

Of course, stats don't tell the whole story about Troy's place in Ohio State history (though the record against Michigan can do a pretty good job). You have to watch him to truly appreciate him. He is almost always in absolute command of the offense. Even when he's scrambling madly, it's usually in the service of the overall goal of putting points on the board (Exhibit A). We know he can run; he showed that last season. This season he has preferred to shred defense through the air.

Yet despite all we've seen from him over the past three years, I can't help but believe we seldom saw all he had to offer. Certainly Michigan brought out the best in him, but I think he could have done even more if he needed to. I think he could have thrown for 3000+ yards if Tressel asked him to air it out. I think he could have rushed for a thousand yards if the system had been different. But he was asked to distribute the ball, to execute and spread the field. And he did that with a cold precision. Even if he didn't always find the best option, he almost always found a good option, and hardly ever made a major mistake. He threw downfield when Ted Ginn got behind defense, he found Anthony Gonzalez just across the first down lines on third-and-long, he scrambled until his third or fourth option got open, and when all else failed, he ran better than most quarterbacks in the country.

Of course, he still has one more game to go. He will cement his place in Buckeye history in the national championship game. But regardless of what happens on January 8, I've already made my decision. I don't think the Buckeyes have ever seen such a combination of athletic talent, leadership, and mastery of an offense in a quarterback as Troy Smith has shown. He's the best quarterback the Buckeyes have had, and I think it'll be a long time before we see another like him.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Finals-Related Hiatus

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten that I run a blog. I'm in the midst of finals week, so all my time spent in front of my computer is going toward studying, or playing solitare, because that feels like it only takes a little bit of time away from studying, whereas blogging feels like a much larger commitment. In reality, I probably spend more time playing solitare than I would posting on here, but still: perception is everything when you're avoiding studying.

Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow or Friday, depending on how serious the post-exam burnout is.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Now You All Are In Big, Big Trouble

Quick football-related note: It's official, we're playing Florida. Complete thoughts to follow tomorrow, but in brief: 1.) Michigan got ripped off, which makes their fans angry, which makes me happy, regardless of what I said earlier today, and 2.) At first glance, Ohio State should win comfortably, but we'll examine that at more depth in the future.

But there's some big basketball-related news to take care of, first. How big? Seven feet, 280 pounds big. Yeah, I'm talking about the return of Greg Oden in Saturday's 78-58 win over Valpo. In his 23 minutes of work, he recorded a double-double, going for 14 points, ten rebounds, and five blocks. He wore a brace on his right wrist and essentially played the game one-handed, even going so far as to shoot free throws with his left hand.

One game isn't really enough data to perform much statistical analysis on, but even without equations and fancy numbers, his influence on the game was very apparent. For the most part, it was positive. He looked a little nervous and rusty in his first few minutes, but once he got going, he had an impact, particularly defensively. He proved Dick Vitale and all those other experts right, as just about all Valpo's trips to the basket were fruitless when Oden was in. During one notable possession, he started by blocking one shot from in front of the basket. A Valpo player recovered the ball near the baseline and attempted a second shot. Oden just reached out and blocked that one too. Five blocks in 23 minutes is impressive enough, but when you factor in the shots that were altered to avoid him and the shots that weren't attempted out of fear of yet another rejection, his impact was major.

Offensively, he was good, but his lack of a second hand was more apparent. You could tell that he wasn't as comfortable and had to think about things more, since he couldn't shoot with his right hand. But as he figured things out, he became more effective, and that was trouble for Valpo. When there's a 7 foot, 280 pound giant backing you down in the post, how do you stop that? You foul. And Valpo did. Oden's biggest impact, from a numbers stand point, came in free throws, as he made more free throws (15), than the Buckeyes attempted against North Carolina (13).

There were some problems though, mostly on the offensive end as the team tried to do too much through Oden. Who can blame them? When Dickie V is calling a guy the greatest thing to happen to basketball since the invention of rubber, it's only natural to want to get him the ball. As a result, it looked like the team tried to force things from time to time, rather than just working Oden into the flow of things. But I think that as they grow more comfortable with him on the floor, and as he continues to heal and improve, we'll end up with an inside-outside game like we had last year, except with more talent all over the floor. And that is scary for the rest of the Big Ten.

That's not to say that other Buckeyes didn't have good games. Daequan Cook led the team in scoring with twenty points, going 4-5 from behind the arc. Mike Conley had seven points and seven assists (to two turnovers). And the team as a whole shot shot well, 51% overall and 45.4% on their threes.

But in a game that was essentially over at halftime, the debut of Greg Oden is going to be the story, and rightfully so. When he's 100%, how do you stop this offense? You can't collapse down on Oden when the team is making almost 44% of their threes, but you clearly can't defend Oden one-on-one. And how do you attack them defensively? Venturing inside looks to be a foolish choice, but as a Thad Matta-coached team, they defend the perimeter well (opponents are making less than 29% of their threes). Oden's arrival is great news for the Buckeyes, and bad news for the rest of the Big Ten.

Chaos Reigns in the Football World; Week Fifteen BlogPoll

If you're the type of Ohio State fan that I am, you spent yesterday afternoon cheering for USC. It hurt, it was like cheering for the bad guy in movies, but you did it anyway, because you did not want to see a rematch with Michigan. You've already seen Ohio State-Michigan, you know the outcome. So why do it again? Plus, Michigan not making it to the National Championship game would make Michigan fans unhappy, and that's a nice bonus.

But as you no doubt already suspected, Pete Carroll is incapable of doing anything that makes Buckeyes fans happy. The man always wins, except when we actually want him to win. In a fashion that should have been predictable, the Trojans lost to UCLA, taking them out of the national title picture.

As a result, the battle for number two in the BCS rankings comes down to Michigan and Florida. We, as Ohio State fans, are left with a similar question we had back before USC lost: do we support Michigan, a fellow Big Ten school and the second best team in the country, or Florida, a very good team in their own right who has the added benefit of not having already lost to the Buckeyes?

I've decided that I'm indifferent. I believe that Michigan is the second best team in the country, and I think they'd beat Florida by at least a touchdown. But that feeling's balanced by not wanting to see a rematch of the last game OSU and Michigan played. It's that same sentiment you've heard: Michigan had their chance, and lost. Let someone else get a shot.

But by the stated goal of the BCS system, to put the two best teams in the championship game, I think Florida should be left out. They are fresh off an SEC championship game that pitted a team whose best quarterback is a running back (Arkansas) against a team whose best running back is a quarterback (Florida). Okay, I may be exaggerating things a bit, but the point I want to make is that two offenses that aren't paragons of quality and execution were enough to get their teams to the SEC championship. Michigan, possessing both an effective quarterback and a real live talented running back, gets the nod from me in terms of offense. Defenses are a push, both in my mind and statistically. Michigan is, I think, the better team, and should get the nod from that standpoint.

But, as I said, I also don't want to see a rematch. So, whatever the BCS system decides, either outcome will be equally acceptable to me.

With all that said, let's move on to the early draft of my BlogPoll ballot:

1 Ohio State --
2 Michigan 1
3 Florida 1
4 Southern Cal 2
5 LSU --
6 Wisconsin --
7 Louisville 1
8 Oklahoma 2
9 Auburn --
10 Boise State 1
11 California 2
12 Notre Dame 2
13 West Virginia 2
14 Arkansas 2
15 Rutgers 8
16 Virginia Tech --
17 Wake Forest 2
18 Texas 1
19 Tennessee 1
20 Penn State 1
21 Nebraska 3
22 Brigham Young --
23 Oregon State --
24 Texas A&M 1
25 Central Michigan 1

Dropped Out: Georgia Tech (#24).

  • Not a lot of games this week, so not a ton of significant movement.
  • Michigan, as I said, gets my vote for second best team in the country.
  • I'm not sure I punished USC enough for their loss, but it was a close loss in a rivalry game, and I'd still take them to beat all those teams ranked below them.
  • Arkansas doesn't drop much because my opinion of them doesn't really change with the outcome of the SEC championship game. Rutgers drops a lot with their loss mostly because I had them above Louisville, but with the loss to West Virginia, I decided to drop them below the Mountaineers. Plus I think this is a more accurate placement for them.
  • Central Michigan: why not?