Is Oden finally ready to step up?
Opponent: John Calipari's Memphis Tigers earned their 2nd straight Elite Eight appearance with a tough 65-64 win over Texas A&M in the Alamodome. The win extended the nation's longest winning streak to 25 games thanks to a stifling Memphis defense that held the Aggies to 22 second half points. Many have questioned just how good this team is because Conference USA is such a pansy league that no other team made the NCAA or even the NIT but the A&M victory on a not-so-neutral court has created some believers. Admittedly, I've only seen them twice but their strengths and weaknesses are crystal clear. On the plus side, the Tigers are as athletic as Tennessee and capable of playing shutdown defense. Additionally, the majority of the roster can really drive to the rim putting pressure on the defensive interior. On the flip, Memphis is one of the nation's worst free throw shooting teams (62%), they don't shoot the three any where near the same efficiency as Tennessee and they sometimes force the tempo leading to erratic play and dumb turnovers. The Tigers also have a tendency to go one-on-one against defenders resulting in poor ball movement. The Tigers assisted on just 8 of 23 FG's against A&M.
Key Players: 6'6" sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts leads Memphis in scoring (15.4) although he's been hobbled recently by a bad wheel injured in the 2nd round victory over Nevada. That said, CD-R didn't look too disabled against the Aggies with 15 points (5-8 FG) in 37 minutes. Lone senior Jeremy Hunt is 2nd in scoring (13.7) and serves as the team's primary deep threat hitting 38% of his triples on the season. A pair of 6'9" forwards, Robert Dozier (9.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Joey Dorsey (8.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg), serve as the main offensive threats on the baseline and will take turns guarding Greg Oden.
Notes: What's up with Joey Dorsey wearing a wife beater instead of a jersey on the Memphis bench in the closing minutes of their A&M game? With the gangsters Calipari likes to bring in, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Hell, I'd say it's highly likely that Dorsey will be shooting dice on the sideline at some point in this game.
Buckeye Breakdown: The keys to beating Memphis include taking away the dribble drive in an effort to force the Tigers to prove they can consistently hit perimeter jumpers and taking care of the ball in the face of their defensive pressure while controlling tempo. Considering Oden's inability to stay out of foul trouble the past two games, Matta may elect to play a little 2-3 zone in hopes of getting Oden to halftime with no more than 1 personal foul. Jamar Butler will likely draw the assignment of keeping Douglas-Roberts in check after doing a nice job of limiting Chris Lofton's points in the 2nd half Thursday night.
Key Players: Ron Lewis continues to give Buckeye fans a chubby with his clutch offensive performances. The senior from Brookhaven blitzed UT with 25 points on 9-17 shooting including a huge three that gave OSU the lead for good at 82-79 with 2:07 left in the game. Mike Conley Jr. continued his stat-stuffing season with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The freshman's free throw with 6.5 seconds left provided the winning margin and he committed just 1 turnover in 34 minutes of action. At this point, it's pretty safe to expect Lewis and Conley to show up but what can we expect from Oden? At least he should be fresh after sitting on the bench for 22 minutes. He'll need to be fresh because Calipari will likely throw a lot of bodies (and fouls) at Oden similar to the strategy employed by Bo Ryan's Badgers. If Oden can get a fair shake from the officials he should be able to impose his will and get some decent looks against the strong but shorter Tiger post defenders. Lastly, OSU will need another boost from the bench to ensure fresh bodies are on the defensive end of the floor to stop the dribble penetration. Considering Memphis' offensive style, look for David Lighty to see 15-20 minutes of action as a defensive stopper after his best performance (7 pts, 2 reb) of the season against UT. Matt Turdwiggler will also get some minutes after a strong 5 point, 3 rebound performance against the Vols.
Notes: A win would give OSU their 9th Final Four appearance...The Dispatch reports Kentucky has not yet asked to speak to Matta about their coaching vacancy.