Wednesday, January 03, 2007

OSU-Indiana Postgame

I'm abandoning my look at the BCS bowls, at least temporarily, because I realized that I don't really care about the Orange Bowl. Louisville won, but who cares? It confirms what we already suspected: Wake Forest is not that good.

Instead, let's talk about basketball. Specifically, the 74-67 win over Indiana. There were good and bad things going on there. First, the good:
  • Greg Oden had a career-high 21 points. He was greatly helped by going 9 of 10 on his free throws, despite still shooting left-handed. If I'm him, I think long and hard about not switching back. And if I'm Pat Riley, I send video of Oden shooting to Shaq.
  • Mike Conley had his best game yet, ending with nine points, ten assists (to zero turnovers!) and three steals. He drives to the basket better than anyone on the team, and he passes better than anyone on the team. Oden may be the best player on the team, but he has some real competition from Conley.
  • Speaking of best games yet, Othello Hunter also played very well for perhaps the first time this year. The numbers aren't terribly gaudy - 14 points, six rebounds, three blocks - but for the first time, he was a real presence on both ends of the court. He missed an easy layup on a great pass from Conley early in the game, but that was his only miss, as he went five of six on his shots and four for four on the line. He got much more aggressive on offense, going for dunks instead of settling for layups or jumpers. There were times, both offensively and defensively, when I mistook him for Oden.
  • Daequan Cook continues to shoot well. He had twelve points on four of six shooting, making two of his three attempts behind the arc. He can score from anywhere. It's fun to watch.
  • Late in the game, Oden blocked a shot clear to the other half of the court. It effectively ended any chance the Hoosiers had at a comeback, and it looked really cool.
Now, the bad:
  • The team is still in a shooting slump. They hit just four of 15 threes. Jamar Butler and Ron Lewis each made one of four. At least the team appears to recognize the problem: they shot well below their average of 22.8 3-pt. attempts per game. On the other hand, maybe the problem is that they aren't getting into a shooting rhythm like earlier in the season. I don't know what the problem is; all I know is that I miss the Buckeye team that was making 40+% of its threes, annoying basketball purists, and turning six-point deficits into nine-point leads in the span of five possessions.
  • Indiana, by contrast, shot absurdly well from behind the arc, hitting twelve of 22 (54.5%). Some of this was just luck, but seeing as Florida also shot well against the Buckeyes, perhaps there's something beyond luck at work here. If the good teams continue to shoot well against the Buckeyes, Florida won't be the last loss of the season.
  • Those damnable pick-and-rolls continue to be a problem. As Keith has already mentioned, the Buckeyes (Oden in particular) have been defending it by hedging (briefly guarding the man with the ball so his defender can recover, yay basketball lingo). The problem is that Oden pretty regularly picks up a foul defending the play, and when he doesn't, he hasn't been quick enough getting back to his man. Florida and Indiana would run some of those screens well outside the three-point line, presumably to draw Oden and his Shot-Blocking Hands of Justice(!) away from the basket. If that continues to be the case, might it be better to have him back off and let the other defender go under the pick? Sure, it might leave the ballhandler with an open shot, but if that shot's a 25- or 30-footer, is that a bad thing? And who knows; Oden might be able to block that shot anyway. Regardless, what they're doing now doesn't work very well.
And overall, the game itself was good and bad. A win is a good thing, and the play of Conley and Hunter in particular was very good. But I think Indiana helped to develop a blueprint for beating Ohio State, and that's a bad thing. Defensively, teams should focus on denying passes to Oden, whether with a zone or some other strategy, since they don't have to worry about Ohio State making them pay from outside. Offensively, lots of pick-and-rolls. Lots and lots. Of course, if the pick-and-roll defense improves and the long-range shots start falling, that blueprint and just about any other for beating the Buckeyes go right out the window, and that would be a good thing.

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