Sunday, April 1, 2007

Instant Analysis

Georgetown vs Ohio St.

With 6 minutes left in the game, Oden missed a dunk but drew a foul on Green. That image probably appropriately summarized a game that was entertaining, but clearly did not live up to the hype it received. Both Oden and Hibbert had big runs while the other was out of the game, but as is the norm in college basketball, both stars had serious foul trouble. And neither player was the difference in the game.

Instead, as if there was any question who was the MVP of Ohio St., it was answered in the first half when Mike Conley Jr. scored 11 points for his team. At one time, Conley was considered a throw-in scholarship. Sure he was a good player in high school, but most people just assumed Matta gave Conley a scholarship in order to convince Oden to attend Ohio St. As has been true all season long, it turned out that the most important player on Ohio St.’s team was wearing number 1.

One of the keys to the game was whether or not Georgetown would turn it over, and turn it over they did. Ohio St. scored 20 points off those turnovers. A few of those points came from the free throw line, but Ohio St. also had a few fastbreak points on missed shots. Overall, I’m going to say that Ohio St. had approximately 10 made baskets in transition. Excluding those baskets, Ohio St. was 15-47 from the floor. Now that’s not a fair statistic, because Ohio St. is always going to get some fastbreak baskets, but it shows two things. First, if Georgetown had been able to force Ohio St. into the half-court, it could have been a completely different game.

Second, it shows that Ohio St. showed tremendous patience. Ohio St. shot only 14 threes. Even if we say that they attempted a three on 14 of 47 half-court shots instead of 14 of 57 total shots, that is still less than one quarter of their shots. This is significantly below their season average. I remember only one possession where I thought Ohio St. took a bad three.

Georgetown on the other hand did have some uncharacteristically impatient threes. Patrick Ewing had one, but I was more disappointed with Jesse Sapp. Sapp can hit a three pointer, but at 28.2% on the year, Georgetown did not want Sapp to attempt 7 three pointers. Sapp usually excels at driving to the basket, but Billy Packer credited Jamar Butler with tremendous defense in shutting down Sapp’s drives. I felt like Sapp got impatient because he was not involved in the offense, and you have to give Butler credit for shutting down what Sapp does best. (Freshman DaJuan Summers also had one of his worst shooting nights of the year, but his shots were all normal shots within the flow of the offense.)

Georgetown settled for these threes partly because of the deficit on the scoreboard, but mostly because of Ohio St.’s interior defense. This was despite a suprisingly poor defensive performance by Oden. When Hibbert was in the game, he spun around Oden, and when Hibbert was out, Oden did not step out to stop the Georgetown guards from cutting to the basket. Instead, I was impressed with Othello Hunter who blocked at least one dunk and altered another shot in the first half. Georgetown normally gets a lot of dunks and lay-ups, but Ohio St. really seemed to fluster them in the first half in large part because of Hunter.

Defense was clearly the key to the game. Although most experts predicted Ohio St. would use a zone defense at times, I was surprised because Georgetown has shredded the zone in the second half of the season. True, the zone defense does cut down backdoor cuts, but a good defensive team like Ohio St. can stop the backdoor play with fundamentally sound man-to-man defense. Because Georgetown has such good jump shooters from both 2 and 3 point range, I thought Ohio St. would not want to risk watching Jeff Green go off from 10 feet as he has done on many occasions. (I even wonder if Ohio St. mixed in some 2-1-2 instead of 2-3 because Green is so good at settling in the middle of the 2-3).

It turned out that Jeff Green was 4/5 from the floor. And Jonathon Wallace 7/12 hit a number of open shots against the zone as well. But, the Ohio St. players had active hands in the zone and forced a number of turnovers and in the end those turnovers were the difference in the game.

UCLA vs Florida

What was UCLA’s unique strategy for the game? How about playing tremendous defense from the opening minute. The first Florida basket from the field did not come until over 7 minutes into the game.

More importantly 8 minutes into the game, Florida had not attempted a two point shot. I decided not to do a statistical breakdown of the game, but I did mention a Pomeroy stat that also got some play in Sports Illustrated. UCLA opponents attempt fewer threes than almost any team in the nation. And yet here was Florida hoisting up a three on every shot.

But despite throwing every ounce of defensive energy at the Gators in the opening minutes, UCLA was not able to score on the offensive end and only built a 6-2 lead. By the time Florida went on a run, it wasn’t pretty. UCLA which had denied those threes all year could not stop the threes in transition, and suddenly Florida was up by double digits.

As I make this post, the game is getting away from the Bruins.