St. Louis: Off-day Press Feeding

By Jerry Palm - March 24, 2007

It's the day after the night and before the day in St. Louis. That means two things. First, we had the off-day press conferences. Second, two other elite eight games are happening. I'm writing this one as the Ohio St-Memphis game is starting. I'm not sure I have enough alcohol in my veins to watch the Buckeyes, although you might think otherwise after reading that first sentence. It could be the heat. I underpacked. It's 125 degrees in St. Louis today (with the wind chill) and I have nothing but long sleeves.

This is a pretty Oregon-heavy note because their guys had more interesting things to say...

Oregon is five years removed from its previous Elite Eight appearance, when the Ducks lost to Kansas. Ernie Kent was asked about what he's done differently this time. He said, "I think the biggest thing was to rest this team and let them get re-energized. If I can get their energy back and get them to where they play at a high level that way, usually we're pretty good.

Tajuan Porter got a lot of attention after his 33 points last night. Porter got off to a hot start this year with 103 points in his first three games before tailing off. When asked about that, he said, "I couldn't score 30 every night. I'm just a freshman." I guess he's never heard of Kevin Durant.

We know he never heard of Oregon as a youngster. He and Malik Hairston are from the same high school in Detroit (Hairston is two years older). Both were asked what they knew about Oregon before they went there. Porter said, "I didn't even know Oregon was a state until Malik went there."

Kent, talking about Porter's size and ability, said, "He's a great example for parents who have that little kid in the family that everybody looks at and says, 'you'll never be a basketball player. Play soccer.' Well, that's not true. You can be whatever you want to be." Where was he when I was a kid?

When asked if he learned anything about playing Florida from Butler and Purdue, which are similar to the Ducks in size, if not style, Kent said, "We learned some things from how they defended in those games, but offensively we're not a team that's going to run clock on you at all."

The Florida press conference was interesting not so much because of what the players said, but what they did. Al Horford was attacked by the curtain he had to walk through to go up the stairs to the interview table. Joakim Noah and Taurean Green had an on-and-off conversation going on. Corey Brewer and Horford kept nodding their heads to questions being asked of coach Billy Donovan or to his responses. I don't think either one of them realized they were doing it or that the other was, but their reactions were always the same.

Donovan thought there were few similarities among Oregon, Butler and Purdue. The only one he could come up with was that both Butler and Oregon are good three-point shooting teams.

Noah talked about one of the team's strengths being not getting too far ahead of itself. "You can't think, 'Oh, one more win and we're in the Final Four.' We don't take anything for granted. We're just playing this game."

I think tomorrow's game will come down to Oregon's ability to get shots off and hit them. Getting into a bit of a running game is OK because if Florida is playing fast, they may not take advantage of their size inside. However, if Florida is playing a lot in transition, it means that Oregon is probably missing too many shots.

Oregon is also going to have to do a good job rebounding, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Vegas had 19 offensive rebounds last night, and Florida is bigger, stronger and faster than the Rebels. If the Gators put up that kind of number, the Ducks will be in the soup.

I like Florida in this one. They do a very good job defending what Oregon does best, which is shoot the three and I don't think the Ducks can keep Florida off the glass. Oregon can win - the Ducks are better than either Butler or Purdue - but Florida will elevate its game and cut down the nets.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 05:15 PM on March 24, 2007

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