Monday, April 02, 2007

The Ultimate National Championship Preview: Florida Gators vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
by Chris Clement

To be honest, I’m not very excited about tonight’s national title game. Sure the “fan” in me wants to be pumped (reminding myself that this is far from a shoe-in victory for the defending champion Gators). Ironically enough, such a point was vastly proven by the same two schools, just different squads, a little over three months ago (when the Gators football team decimated the seemingly outgunned, outhustled and overrated Buckeyes). Unfortunately, that game was a stinker after the first two possessions and this one may follow a similar suit.

So below, I’m going to mark down a couple thoughts, a little analysis, a prediction or two, and perhaps, something that doesn’t resemble soft whimpering and gentle crying…all for you.

We’ll call it my five keys for a good game…or an eventual blow-out.

Oden’s Fouls

It’s too bad we can’t give Greg Oden ten fouls. Perhaps, Al Horford could be called for an offensive foul once or twice as he backs down people like a lumberjack tackling a redwood. Ditto for Noah and his phantom pivot feet and the lack of any traveling calls against them. One could say the same for Conley Jr., often neglected for being punished for constantly palming the ball (then again, who doesn’t these days?) or Jamar Butler’s often wild and erratic reaches on defense. Either way, Greg Oden can’t get into foul trouble on Monday Night. He might be able to pick up that second foul in the first half, but it had better be in the closing minutes when he needs to rest. With Noah/Horford/Richard out there, Thad Matta can’t survive long with guys like Hunter and Terwilliger trying to man-up against the Gator big men.

Can Oden stay out of foul trouble and be effective against the Gators' frontline?
Courtesy: Celebopedia

Guard Play

Taurean Green is the heart and soul of this Gator championship squad. If you disagree, then I doubt your validity as a college expert. While the big men and Corey Brewer get all the accolades and Lee Humphrey is destroying nets around the country, when Green is on, the Gators are great. Whether its dishing out assists in traffic, hitting key threes as teams attempt rallies against his Gators, or stifling defense in the half-court trap, Green makes these Gators go. Mike Conley Jr. will be a much better pro, but he will see everything a point guard should mean to his team on Monday Night. Talk to William Avery about what Khalid El-Amin showed him back in '99. No, it wasn’t paternity suits, but calculated and team-oriented guard play. As for the other Buckeyes, Jamar Butler must continue consistent inside/outside play and be prepared to run himself ragged on Monday night. Lee Humphrey isn’t very athletic, so there is a chance to keep an eye on him. But even a brief hesitation, and the ball is suddenly through the net. Be physical with him and get him thinking about a few early misses…and he becomes a different player. He won’t put the ball on the floor nearly as often as he should. While Green struggled despite a Gator victory, the same was true – much more surprisingly – for Buckeye 5th-year senior Ron Lewis. Let me make no beefs about it: Ron Lewis cannot struggle on Monday night. No chance.
Green: Must re-establish form that got Gators to Atlanta


I try not to publicize them about too much, but Donovan was as savvy a coach as the Final Four had to offer (3-0 in national semifinal). He has his team in the perfect mindset. They know they are the best team on the floor and their task is to remind you of that each and every time. These guys know how important repeating sounds. What’s more important is winning the championship this year. As for the Buckeyes, Matta has gotten every last inch out of a young, talented team. While he can’t teach Oden in less than 48 hours how to avoid foul trouble, we will see how effectively he can work the refs by balancing calls made – or not made – on the bigs of both teams. That alone may decide his team’s fate more than their play.
Is a repeat in the cards? Is Billy D off to Lexington?
Courtesy: CBS4, Viacom

December 23rd, 2006

It doesn’t matter. Sure, Florida decimated the youthful Buckeyes 86-60 in Gainesville. But neither team will turn to that tape anytime soon. Horford played – when every media report said he was out (typical) – and Oden has barely walked on the court by that point. The Buckeyes are much more confident and a more grounded team. The scariest thing though is this - Florida is better. Much better. The Gators don’t go deep, but they’re deeper now than they were then. Either way, even if Florida spanks the Buckeyes on Monday night, it won’t be because of December 23rd, 2006.

Conley Jr.: Has gotten just a bit better since December 23
Courtesy: Indianapolis Star


Something unexpected usually needs to go right for a team – or wrong for their opponent – when a national title is delivered. As a 'Cuse fan, Kueth Duany’s early double-digits were an unwelcomed sign that aided us to an early 18-point lead. The same could be said for the play of Anderson Hunt, 29 points in the ’90 title win, that led to his Final Four MOP award for the Runnin’ Rebs of UNLV. Ditto for Mike Dunleavy’s 21 points in their 2001 title-victory over Arizona and so on and so forth. All of these guys were talented – some more than others, of course – yet all of them made unexpected impacts. Who could these new people be tonight? I’m not going to try and guess. Except for mentioning one name, David Lighty of Ohio State.

Alright, that’s all I got. I’m hoping for a good game…but not crossing my fingers. I’ll say Florida by a dozen-or-so right now, while rooting heavily for the Buckeyes to return the upset to the Gators side.

If Florida does win, that’d be both collegiate championships that really matter to most – basketball and football – and the first back-to-back titles since Duke (which would be a blessing in itself to push aside).

Either way, I'm hopeful that it’ll be more fun than it appears it’ll be.

I’ll throw out some reactions on Tuesday one way or another…so until then.

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