|Ohio State 23-13, 10-8 Big Ten Roster | Schedule||April 3, 2008 7:00 PM ET - ESPN —— The Garden New York, NY||UMass 25-10, 10-6 A-10 Roster | Schedule|
OPPONENT: UMass comes into the NIT finals as a fairly hot team, winning 10 of their last 11 games. They have come back from double digit deficits in 3 of their 4 tournament games, including a 22 pointer at Syracuse. The Minutemen are coached by Travis Ford, one of the sexiest names for open coaching positions around the country and a former bomber from Pitino's days at Kentucky.
UMass likes an up-tempo style of play and that is reflected in their 81.4 points per game. They are not the best shooting team OSU has faced this year, connecting on just 44 percent overall, 35.6 percent from deep and 67 percent from the charity stripe. They do make over 9 threeballs per contest and dish out 15.6 assists, but get outrebounded by -1.6 and turn it over 13.5 times a game. I did not see them play Florida, but I expect to see a helter skelter defense, evident from their 7.4 steals and 7.5 blocks per contest.
KEY PLAYERS: Four of UMass's five starters are New York natives, so there will be more than the 237 people who watched Ohio State's semi-final game, but they don't seem to be a very deep team. Gary Forbes, a 6'7" senior from Brooklyn, leads this team in scoring (19.5) and rebounding (7.6). Forbes doesn't appear to be the "best" shooter, connecting on only 41 percent overall and 30 percent from deep, but he has attempted 551 shots and 236 free throws.
Ricky Harris, a 6'2" sophomore, comes in scoring 18 points a game and has attempted 266 three pointers. He connects on almost 37 percent of his bombs, but only averages 2.5 boards and 1.7 assists. Etienne Brower is a 6'8" senior who is second on the team with 6.7 rebounds and third with 12.5 points. He too likes the threeball, taking 182 of his 306 shots from there and making 43 percent of them.
Chris Lowe is a 6'0" junior who is the other member to average over 30 minutes a game, he comes in averaging 11.9 points and a team leading 6.2 assists. Dante Milligan is a 6'9" senior who hails from NYC. On the season he is averaging 9 points and 5.8 rebounds in only 19 minutes of play, but may sense his career ending as he went for 30 points and 23 rebounds in his last two. No one else on their team seems worthy of my time.
NOTES: This is the first post season tournament final for UMass... The Minutemen went just over 10 minutes without a FG against Floridia... Travis Ford is rumored to be leaving for LSU after the game... The best wins for UMass this season are Syracuse twice and Dayton...
BUCKEYE BREAKDOWN: I have said from the beginning I liked the NIT bid. That sentiment has spread quickly throughout Buckeye Nation, as we have watched this team put on a display of hoops we have not seen all year and I have no doubt this is a spring board for next year. Can you hear all the haters though when we win this championship? Fuck 'em, it's been fun.
Ohio State has shot 51 percent in this tournament, an obvious by-product of extra practice time and have scored more than 70 points in four straight for the first time all season. Their defense has been suffocating leading to 23 blocks, 34 steals and a 14.5 point winning margin, while holding teams to 43.2 percent shooting.
Four Buckeyes are still averaging in double figures lead by Jamar's 17.5 and Kosta's 17.3, followed by D-Light's 11.5 and Othello's 10.3 points. O-Hunter also leads Ohio State with 7.5 rebounds a game, while Koufos is grabbing five and a half. Turner may have had his best game of the season Tuesday with 17 points, 8 boards, 5 assists and 4 steals. That game pushed his tourney average to 8.3 points a game and his 10 steals matches Lighty for the team lead.
NOTES: Koufos is shooting 70 percent (32-46) for the tournament... This is the third NIT finals for OSU, beating Wyoming in 1986 and losing to UConn in 1988... Ohio State's 58 wins over the last two seasons are the most in consecutive seasons, as are the 75 games played... Matta is 12-6 in the NCAA and 4-0 in the NIT...