Final Four: Ohio State Preview

By - March 30, 2007

Hang Time's fourth and final team preview is coming live from the open practices at the venue, where the media contingent is putting the Georgia Dome Network Services Department's wireless access point to the test judging by an Internet connection that's loading slower than the Georgetown offense.

What the South Region champion Ohio State lacks in experience, the Buckeyes compensate for with star power and droves of it. Floor general Mike Conley, Jr., is a freshman in classification only -- having played more like a senior during the NCAA Tournament than most of the fourth-year point guards in Division I throughout the season. Mercurial senior guard Ron Lewis has been electric throughout the month of March, his three-point equalizer to push Ohio State's second-round escape against Xavier into overtime is just the most famous play in a highlight-reel month for the Bowling Green transfer. Junior Jamar Butler is the resident sniper whose long-range precision -- as indicated with a team-leading 73 made three-pointers -- has kept opposing defenses honest throughout the season. And there's no bigger impact player in college basketball than Oden, who commands the attention of the other nine players on the court -- not to mention the capacity crowds before which the seven-footer has been playing for the past five years. (Not since I saw LeBron James bring his St. Vincent-St. Mary club to the Palestra for a showdown with reigning Philly Public League champ Strawberry Mansion on Dec. 22, 2002 have I seen an amateur demand the attention of 10,000-plus onlookers the same way.)

Two extremely close calls that tested the survival instincts of the Big Ten champs (Xavier and Tennessee) -- sandwiched by a laugher (Central Connecticut State) and a convincing result over a game but overmatched No. 2 seed (Memphis) -- have comprised Ohio State's four-game run to the Final Four. Here the Buckeyes face a team in Georgetown with the type of rough-and-tumble frontcourt that the Columbus school has not seen since facing Wisconsin with Brian Butch. Both Oden and his Saturday evening counterpart -- 7-foot-3 rejection-machine-turned-all-around-threat Roy Hibbert -- have suffered as a result of foul trouble in recent games. The ability for either big man to stay on the court -- and thus how the referees are calling the game -- is the most important storyline to follow during the first 10 minutes of Saturday's first national semifinal.

Some notes of interest courtesy of the hard-working NCAA media relations staff:

  • Ohio State and Georgetown have met four times on the hardwood. The two teams have split their four meetings. This will be a rematch of last year's second-round NCAA Tournament meeting in which the Hoyas defeated the Buckeyes, 70-52, in Dayton. Ohio State won the first game played by the two teams, 47-46, during the Great Alaska Shootout in 1981. The Buckeyes have an all-tme record of 67-46 against the current membership of the Big East.

  • This is Ohio State's ninth trip to the Final Four and its first since 1968, when the Buckeyes suffered an 80-68 loss to North Carolina in the national semifinals in Los Angeles before defeating Houston, 89-85, in the consolation game. Since that Final Four appearance, the Buckeyes have participated in 14 NCAA Tournaments. In those 14 events, the Buckeyes twice advanced to the regional finals. In 1999, Ohio State advanced to the Final Four in St. Petersburg only to lose to eventual champion Connecticut, 64-58, in the national semis. However, those 1999 results have been vacated in NCAA records.

  • This year, Ohio State has posted a 31-1 record when leading at halftime. However, the Buckeyes were 2-3 in games when they trailed at the half. They were also 30-0 in games when they led with five minutes to go -- and 2-3 in games when they trailed at that point.

  • Ohio State's season victory total (34) is their highest ever. The previous record for wins in a season (27) was accomplished by the 1961 and 1999 teams.

  • Only four teams have ever been ranked No. 1 in both football and men's basketball at the same time: Ohio State, UCLA, Florida and Notre Dame. Ohio State has managed the feat on two occasions after the Buckeyes moved into the No. 1 spot in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll on Nov. 27, 2006. The other time Ohio State accomplished the feat was on Nov. 28, 1961, when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 in both sports.

Posted by at 12:43 PM on March 30, 2007

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