Greg Oden, 70, Center, Freshman, Ohio State
Vs Memphis: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block, 7-8 FG, 3-6 FT
Oden got off to a good start on the game, as Ohio State went to him in the post on their very first possession, where he caught the ball on the right block with his back to the basket. Oden spun into the lane and put up a nice left-handed lay-up, which he finished with a soft touch on the rim. Oden didnt get much else going in the first half, aside from one power jam on a dropstep where he established excellent position down low in the post. Oden got two fouls pretty early in the game, so Thad Matta rested him for about 10 minutes in the first half, to ensure that he had a chance to make a greater impact in the second half, which he did.
Oden scored 12 points in the second half, showing off a few low-post moves, including a drop-step once again, and a pretty right-handed hook shot from about five feet out. He did a good job establishing position low, where he finished with powerful jams, spinning lay-ups, and he also drew a couple of fouls. While Oden still has a long ways to go in further refining his back-to-the-basket arsenal, this was a very strong performance for a player who usually relies on his brute strength and size, while often looking mechanical and even uncomfortable with finesse moves in the post.
Defensively, Oden did a good job anchoring Ohio States defense, contesting and cutters or drivers that tried to come in the lane, though he only netted one official block on the game. The only area where Oden showed some problems on defense was when he had to step out on the perimeter, which has been an ongoing concern with his defense. While its not something that will really hold him back from becoming an excellent player, one area that Oden lacks in as a shot-blocker is the ability to step up on the perimeter and go step for step with ball-handlers as they drive towards the hoop. He simply doesnt have the quickness to consistently defend guards going to the hoop, though with his length he is still able to occasionally contest shots from behind in this manner.
Oden was very impressive on the boards as well, though thats kind of expected given his huge advantage in size over the opposition. Still, Joey Dorsey is a very strong player, but Oden had no problem establishing position around the hoop and tracking down rebounds on both ends of the court. He frequently asserted his size and strength in a crowd to come up with rebounds when there were multiple Memphis players around him.
While not a game that will lock him in as the #1 pick in next years draft, this was an impressive outing for Oden, and given the stage and importance of the game, one of his better games as a collegiate. Oden would do his draft stock well to have complete performances like this in the remaining games of the tournament, specifically by consistently showing versatility, touch, and assertiveness in the post on the offensive end.
Arron Afflalo, 6-5, Junior, SG/SF, UCLA
24 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 10-15 FG, 3-7 3P, 1-2 FT
The way this game started, it looked as if we were heading for more of the same like we saw in the previous tournament games. Afflalo settled for too many 3-pointers with the long arms of Brandon Rush right in his face, going 1/5 from behind the arc in the first half. He went to the other parts of his game to get himself going, though, running the floor in transition and finishing with layups, moving off the ball brilliantly and scoring in the post, pulling up off the dribble for open mid-range jumpers, and even creating his own shot from the perimeter on one occasion and finishing with a layup high off the glass. At this point he was really feeling it, which led to an incredible NBA range 3-pointer fading left sharply after pulling up off the dribble with the shot-clock about to expire, a shot that was a real turning point in the game for UCLA.
Defensively, he wasnt as good as were normally accustomed to seeing, having a tough time following Brandon Rush around screens and letting him get by him on a number of opportunities. Luckily for him, though, Rush was unable to capitalize on many of these drives to the basket.
At the end of the day, regardless of whether you catch him on a good or bad night, Afflalo is still the same prospect hes always been. His lack of size, athleticism and ball-handling skills will always limit his upside, but his perimeter shooting, smarts and defensive ability should allow him to carve out a nice niche for himself in the league.
Brandon Rush, 6-7, Sophomore, SG/SF, Kansas
18 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, 1 steal, 1 block, 7-15 FG, 2-3 3P
Rush started off the game aggressively, and continued to play that way for the entire evening. He put the ball on the floor with both his right and significantly weaker left hand, getting into the paint on numerous occasions but not quite being able to finish on many of his floaters. He would clearly be well served working on finishing stronger and drawing contact better at the rim, but many of his attempts at the basket unluckily rolled out for him. With his length and athleticism that shouldnt be too much of an issue for him in the future, whats significant here is that hes making a conceited effort to take defenses off the dribble, which was one of the biggest question marks about his game going into this season, along with his lack of aggressiveness. His ball-handling skills are still not NBA shooting guard caliber, but theyve obviously improved, particularly his crossover dribble.
Rush also did a good job defensively in this game, challenging shots thanks to his length and quickness, but ran into an incredible night from Arron Afflalo who just would not miss, particularly in the second half. Its fairly clear that Rush is a much more complete player than he was two years ago. He was more than willing to help out on the glass as well, as he has been all year long.
In terms of his perimeter shooting, widely considered his strong-point, Rush hit 2 of his 3 attempts, finishing off the tournament a scintillating 82% (9/11) from behind the arc in 4 games.
All in all, Rush helped himself with the way he played in March, especially with the potential he showed to improve on his weak-points, as well as with his willingness to be a go-to guy for his team. Its not all that common to find a long and athletic swingman who plays strong defense and knocks down open shots, and its pretty clear that he has the upside to develop into much more than that considering how much hes improved over the past two seasons.
Mike Conley Jr , 6'1, freshman, Point Guard, Ohio State
19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 turnovers, 5-11 FGs, 9-10 FTs
Conley, known for his ability to play under control just as much as his athleticism, had his hands full with a Memphis backcourt that knows how to hound opposing ball-handlers. The Tigers came at Conley the entire game, and while the freshman did commit an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers on the night, he proved once and for all that there arent many defenders on any level capable of stopping him when he decides to take the ball to the basket. Conley does a marvelous job of controlling tempo and playing under control, but still manages to find the right moments to bury the needle on his way to the basket.
Conley once again recognized that the lane would be open without Oden in the game to clog it up. He hit a huge 20 foot 2-pointer (his foot was on the 3-point line) to stave off a bit of Memphis momentum early in the second half, and was downright dominant during the Buckeyes crucial run.
For the tournament, Conley is averaging nearly 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2 steals per game. His stock will continue to skyrocket, with improvement on his outside shot all that stands between him and the lottery. He would be well-served to return to school for his sophomore year, but these types of performances make it fairly clear where he ranks in the NCAA point guard prospect hierarchy. Now, in the year of Oden vs Durant, we have another less discussed but just as heated debate Conley or Lawson?
Ron Lewis, 6-5, Senior, SG/SF, Ohio State
22 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 steals, 5-12 FG, 10-10 FT, 2-6 3P
Most of Lewis damage was done at the free throw line, where he was perfect, scoring 10 of his 22 points. He was very aggressive driving to the basket and was able to pick up quite a number of shooting fouls. Lewis isnt the greatest slasher in the world due to his mediocre ball-handling skills, but he is quick and strong, and when he gets any kind of opening hell take off and make things very hard on defenders trying to stop him from getting into the lane. Once in the paint he was looking to finish strong around the rim, but did pull up once for a soft floater that didnt connect. His deceptive moves and good use of screens always makes Lewis a threat to go to the hole if the opportunity presents itself.
As he has shown time and time again this season and in the tournament, Lewis has a knack for hitting big shots. With 4:33 remaining in the Buckeyes match up with Memphis, Lewis drilled a very deep three that would prove to be the dagger in the game, putting Ohio State up by seven. A good, but not great outside shooter as far as his career numbers go, Lewis likes to pull up off of screens from behind the arc, as he did so twice in the game.
Lewis played a good game defensively for the Buckeyes, having an above average game on the boards and staying aggressive in on the ball situations. At only 6-5, Lewis relied on his strength and quickness to come away with nearly twice his season average for rebounds, which proved big for the Buckeyes when Greg Oden was sitting for extended periods with foul trouble. On the ball, Lewis was aggressive, but because he isnt the smartest of most aware player in the world, has a tendency to play alongside his man rather than staying in front of him. This led to Lewis getting beaten off the dribble a couple of times.
The deeper into the tournament Ohio State goes, the better of a shot Lewis has of being drafted this summer. After topping 20 points only twice all season, he has done it in three out of four tournament games, and has played great in late game situations. He is a pure scorer, and has the makings of a solid scoring option to bring off the bench in the NBA. Still, Lewis is no lock by any means for the next level, but with a strong performance in the final four and in pre-draft camps, he will put himself in good position to be a second round draft pick. He is scheduled to play in Portsmouth starting April 4th, but if his team makes the final game on April 2nd, that could very well change.
Julian Wright, 68, Sophomore, SF/PF, Kansas
Vs. UCLA: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 2 turnovers, 4-7 FG, 0-2 FT
To start the game, Wright was absolutely everywhere on the floor on both ends. He was keeping balls alive on the offensive glass, hit a 12 foot jumper, and made a gorgeous cut to the basket that he finished with a left-handed hook shot. The Chicago area native was remarkably active on the defensive end as well, gathering countless deflections that he turned into steals for himself or for his Jayhawk teammates. He was outstanding handling the ball in the open court and distributing the rock to the open man, accounting for all four of his assists within the games first ten minutes. More importantly however, he gave Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hell on the defensive end, blocking his shot a few times and not allowing him to gain post position down low, despite his obvious strength disadvantage. There was little more that one could have asked for out of Wright in these ten minutes, as he clearly appeared to be one of the elite players in this years draft class.
What followed in the remaining 30 minutes was quite puzzling, with Wright nowhere to be found on the court, especially on the offensive end. He had little impact on the game, not looking to penetrate or create for his teammates when he touched the ball, opting to just swing the ball around the perimeter despite the fact that he is arguably the best creator at the power forward position that the collegiate game has to offer. It truly seemed like he was scared to shoot the ball late in the game, deferring his own wide open looks to feed the ball to closely guarded teammates. On the defensive side he wasnt getting his hands on those loose balls anymore, deflecting the same amount of passes, or putting the pressure on Mbah a Moute that he did early in the game. It was a shocking and subpar performance out of Wright in what could be his final game as a Jayhawk, based on what many implications are leading to.
Even with his below average performance against UCLA, Julian has shown enough over the last two years to cement himself in the top ten of this years draft no matter how poor his workouts could possibly go. His combination of size, athleticism, and perimeter skills along with his great motor make him unlike any other prospect this years draft has to offer. While this game certainly did not help Wrights stock, it will not crumble it either as far too many scouts are in love with the versatile game that the Jayhawk forward brings to the table. The only question now is whether hell stay another year at Kansas, like hes been adamantly saying all year long.
Joey Dorsey, 6-9, Junior, PF/C, Memphis
0 points, 3 rebounds, 4 fouls, 19 minutes, 0-0 FG, 0-2 FT
Foul trouble stopped Dorsey from staying on the floor for more than a few minutes at a time, as Oden was just too big and strong for him to deal with on his own. He didnt have the size to challenge his jump-hook, and wasnt able to hold his spot on the block against him as he moved him around in the paint to establish position and dunk on him time after time.
Other teams have found some success against Ohio State by having Oden defend a perimeter oriented player who could draw him away from the basket and open up the lane for penetrations. With Dorsey in the game, that simply wasnt an option, as hes just too limited of a player at this point to do anything outside of a few feet away from the rim. Not having to worry about any offense coming from Dorseys direction, Oden camped out in the paint all game long and completely dominated Memphis with his rebounding and shot-blocking skills. In the rare occurrence that Dorsey got himself in a position to receive the ball, he was fouled hard and sent to the free throw line, giving scouts the opportunity to see just how bad his shooting mechanics are.
This game should go a long ways in humbling Dorsey and showing him that life is a lot tougher outside of the incredibly weak confines of Conference USA. If he makes the NBA, its going to be as a big body to bring off the bench to rebound, put a body on players, and commit fouls, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hes not anywhere close to being as good as Greg Oden, and never will be, so it was probably good for him to find that out now.
Mario Chalmers, 6-2, Sophomore, PG, Kansas
2 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 5 turnovers, 1-8 FG, 0-0 FT, 0-2 3P
After a poor scoring performance in the Sweet 16 against Southern Illinois, things got even worse for Chalmers who only connected on one field goal attempt, finishing with 2 points. He never got into any kind of rhythm from the outside thanks to UCLAs tight defense, and saw everyone one of his driving lay ups contested as well, finishing just 1 of 4 on easy looks inside. Having Chalmers, a 50% shooter on the season, taken out of commission offensively was a big part of the Bruins ability to slow the Jayhawk offense.
A criticism of Chalmers thus far in his career has been his ability as a pure point guard; he certainly showed those abilities in Kansass loss. He doubled his assist average, setting up teammates with great looks all game long. He had a few nice looks in transition, but was at his best when he was able to penetrate the lane and kick out to teammates setting up in the corners. In particular he gave Brandon Rush some nice looks on the perimeter and set up Darnell Jackson with a beautiful alley-oop, in picking up 6 assists. If Chalmers can show this same mentality in the future, theres no reason to think he wont average totals like this regularly. He got into trouble, though, with protecting the basketball. Kansas had a team total 19 turnovers, and Chalmers had over a quarter of them with 5. This severely hurt his production as well as Kansass chances for winning the game.
Defensively, Chalmers had a stellar game. His on ball pressure was fantastic all game long, hounding his opponents and forcing turnovers. His 4 steals was one of his highest totals of the season, and he got them in a variety of ways relying on his quick hands and great anticipation. He picked off two passes and was able to pick up another one by trailing a play and knocking the ball loose.
Despite his great defensive efforts and solid passing, this was a down game for Chalmers. As Kansass second leading scorer, he has been an offensive threat all season long, but put up his lowest point total of the season in a disappointing loss. Only a sophomore though, Chalmers should certainly be back for his junior campaign at Kansas, where he has a chance to be a first round pick if he puts together another strong season.
Antonio Anderson, 65, Sophomore, PG/SG, Memphis
Vs. Ohio State: 10 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 5-14 FG, 0-4 3PT, 0-0 FT
The Memphis sophomore brings a whole lot to the table in terms of playmaking skills for a 65 guard. He is able to play both the point and shooting guard positions, exhibiting outstanding ball handling skills and court vision when he has the ball in his hands. Anderson made some absolutely beautiful passes in the open court against Ohio State, always keeping his head up and finding the open man given the slightest of room to sneak a pass in. His terrific decision making skills are supported by a 2.68/1 assist to turnover ratio, which is better than virtually every point guard prospect in the country not named Mike Conley Jr. The excellent size that he possesses for a guard at 65 or 66 allows him to see over smaller guards, while giving them fits on the defensive end with his athleticism and length when he chooses to do so. The potential is certainly there for the Laurinburg Prep product, but consistency has been the issue that has plagued him throughout his career more so then anything else.
While exhibiting many outstanding physical abilities, it is clear that Antonio still has a whole lot of work to do in other facets of the game. His shot selection is awfully poor, exhibited by his 39.2% FG percentage and 25.5% accuracy from beyond the three point arc. With the ball in his hands, Anderson is noticeably right hand dominant, going away from his left hand at all available costs. He also does not exert consistent effort on the defensive end, despite the fact that he shows flashes of capably being a superb defender when it is all said and done.
It will be interesting to see how Anderson is able to fit in next year when Chicago Simeons Derrick Rose steps foot on campus at Memphis. Rose, Anderson, and Chris Douglas-Roberts will form one of the nations most explosive backcourts, but it is questionable how much Anderson will actually have the ball in his hands. Either way, playing alongside someone of Roses talent can do nothing but benefit Anderson, and fans should expect his scoring numbers to improve from the meager 7.9 points per game that he averaged this past season.