Friday, March 23, 2007

It's called a choke

Ohio State's win over Tennessee temporarily saved my brackets and showed why even if this OSU team will never be regarded as an all-time great if it win the national title (and it won't), it's still a dangerous team in this tournament.

First, OSU has comeback ability over both short and long stretches. In its game against Xavier, it came back from down 9 with 3:00 left; against Tennessee it was down 20 with 20:01 left (OSU had a three-point play to close out the first half). According to Elias, the 17-point halftime deficit was the largest ever overcome for a win in regulation in the NCAA Tournament. Va. Tech overcame an 18-point halftime hole and won in OT in 1980 (and that's quite ridiculous in the pre-shot clock era -- it's not like UNC hadn't been using the Four Corners for about 15 years by then). The Monk remembers a 17-to-19 point deficit Michigan had in its second-round game with UCLA in '93 but I'll trust Elias on this one. Oh yeah, Elias had one other note -- only three teams have ever won in the Sweet 16 by 1 point and won the NCAA title, the last two were '03 Syracuse and '05 UNC. Talk about dopey stats -- SU had wrapped the game and Auburn hit a meaningless triple at the buzzer. As for UNC . . . heck, it should have lost that one.

Second, unlike most of the Big Tenplusone teams and unlike UCLA, North Carolina and Kansas, OSU is effective at basically all tempos. It can bang and slog in low-scoring (YAWN) games such as its 66-49 Big Ten title game win over Wisconsin, and it can push the pace and compete like it did yesterday. OSU played better yesterday without Greg Oden (the world's oldest 18-year old -- he looks nearly my age) because the big bugger does not run the floor particularly well (contra Pat Ewing, Hakeem and Shaq when they were collegians).

As for Tennessee: it's called a choke. No matter how you slice it, you should NEVER lose games where you have had a 20-point lead. OSU's biggest advantage was its frontcourt, but the guards carried the Buckeyes.

All told, however, it was a great game.

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