March 31, 2007

Head to head: Ohio State vs. Georgetown

Greg Oden and Roy Hibbert are taking the phrase "big game" to a brand new make that renewed level.

Ohio State's 7-foot freshman and Georgetown's 7-2 junior will face off in an old-style low-post matchup the tournament hasn't seen in the Final Four in decades.

The 7-foot center has been phased out of the college game either by the best high school centers going to the NBA out of high school or big players looking to play farther from the basket.

"We have two guys here who like the fact they are low-post players," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.

Oden and Hibbert enter the Final Four playing their finest basketball of the tournament. Oden controlled the paint in the second half against Memphis, and Hibbert played a major role in Georgetown's 10-point comeback in the final six minutes against North Carolina.

All Ohio State coach Thad Matta has to do is take a look at last year's Florida team that rode Joakim Noah and Al Horford to the national title.

"Teams that make it to Final Four have a couple of big post players," Matta said. "That was something that was evident to us that we need as much size as we can get."

Ohio State will take on Georgetown in the national semifinal in Atlanta at 6:07 p.m. Eastern. The game will be televised on CBS.

No. 1 Ohio State (34-3) at No. 2 Georgetown (30-6)
Mike Conley Jr. vs. Jonathan Wallace
Conley plays in the shadow of his former high school teammate, Greg Oden, and he prefers it that way. But don't mistake that for weakness. Conley quietly is the key component of Ohio State's offense. He creates chaos for opposing teams with his passing and scoring ability and his willingness to take the ball into the lane. Wallace is an underrated option in the Georgetown back court who is overshadowed by Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert. The sure-handed junior is a good decision-maker, converting nearly 55 percent of his 3-pointers during the tournament. He has 15 assists to two turnovers in the last four games.
Edge: Ohio State
Jamar Butler vs. Jessie Sapp
Like Wallace, Sapp has shown he can make the big play or pass at the end of close games against North Carolina and Vanderbilt. Sapp is a nice complement to his backcourt mate. The quick Sapp helped limit North Carolina guard Ty Lawson to five points. In this game, Sapp will match up with another speedy guard in Butler. The only returning starter from last year's Ohio State team, Butler gives the Buckeyes a third option on the perimeter after Ron Lewis and Mike Conley Jr..
Edge: Even
Ron Lewis vs. DaJuan Summers
No one has made more big shots for Ohio State in the tournament than Lewis. The senior has averaged 21.8 points in four tournament games while hitting all 21 of his free throws and 51.9 percent of his shots. On a team with so many freshman contributors, the senior Lewis is a stabilizing veteran presence. He'll be matched up with Georgetown's top freshman Summers. Summers broke out in the last two tournament games with a career-high 20 points against North Carolina and 15 points against Vanderbilt. If he can cut down on turnovers (12 giveaways, six assists in the tournament), he'll be an even more dangerous weapon outside for Georgetown.
Edge: Ohio State
Ivan Harris vs. Jeff Green
Green's game-winning shot against Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16 was filled with controversy, but that shouldn't take away from Green's place as one of the best all-around players in the tournament. He has stepped up his play in the tournament with 15.8 points and 7 rebounds per game. Harris will be counted on for his defensive presence against Green. But the senior Harris (6-7, 220) could have a tough time with Green's size at 6-9, 235 pounds. After averaging 8.5 points per game during the regular season, Harris has averaged 3.5 in the tournament.
Edge: Georgetown
Greg Oden vs. Roy Hibbert
This will be one of the most intriguing one-on-one matchups of the Final Four. Oden has not played against a big man of Hibbert's caliber since facing Florida's Joakim Noah and Al Horford on Dec. 23. Making this duel more interesting is that both are coming off good performances in the regional finals. Oden had 17 points and nine rebounds against Memphis while altering the game defensively. Hibbert has had double-doubles in five consecutive games. The key for both will be staying out of foul trouble. If one has to head to the bench, the other team will have a major advantage.
Edge: Ohio State
Ohio State's bench vs. Georgetown's bench
Two other members of the Thad Five provide key minutes of the bench for Ohio State. Daequan Cook cooled off during the Big Ten season, and his struggles continued into the tournament. After sitting during the second half against Tennessee, Cook showed signs of breaking out of his slump against Memphis. He scored nine points with a couple of key baskets down the stretch. Freshman David Lighty is a boost of energy for the Buckeyes while junior Othello Hunter contributes key minutes if Oden is in foul trouble. Georgetown counters with Patrick Ewing Jr., Jeremiah Rivers and Vernon Macklin. None has been particularly impressive in the tournament.
Edge: Ohio State
Thad Matta vs. John Thompson III
Give Thompson a heap of credit for the comeback against North Carolina. The Hoyas didn't panic and change their philosophy to keep up with North Carolina's fast pace. Georgetown continued to execute Thompson's Princeton offense to chip away at the Tar Heels' lead before winning in overtime. All of Thompson's starters have elevated their play since the regular season. Oden's foul trouble often puts Matta in a tough position. The Buckeyes are a guard-dominated team without Oden's presence at center. If Oden is out of the game, he'll have to make a major adjustment to stop the frontcourt of Green and Hibbert.
Edge: Georgetown

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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