NCAA Championship: #1 OSU vs. #1 Florida

By Chris Lauderback on April 1, 2007 at 8:15 pm
Can Oden play 30+ minutes versus Florida?
Ohio State Buckeyes
#1 Ohio State
35-3, 15-1 Big Ten
Roster | Schedule

9:21 PM ET
Georgia Dome
Atlanta, GA
Florida Gators
#1 Florida
30-5, 13-3 SEC East
Roster | Schedule

Opponent: All Buckeye fans know what’s at stake here. Florida has a chance to beat OSU in both the football and basketball championships within a three month window. The only difference is that the roles are reversed. This time, Florida is the hunted and the Buckeyes get to play the role of upstart underdog. Additionally, Billy Donovan’s troops are looking to become the first back-to-back national champion since Duke did it back in ’91-’92.

The Gators earned a spot in the title game easily dispatching UCLA 76-66 on the strength of 53% FG shooting including 41% (9-22) from deep. Defensively, Florida held UCLA to 21% (5-13) from behind the arc and dominated the glass (42-25). These guys are the best team in the country and pulling the upset is going to require everyone’s max effort, most specifically on the backboards. The Gators produced a +14 rebounding margin in the December match-up and if that effort is duplicated Monday, they’ll again cut down the nets. Florida nearly burned off the nets in December, killing the buckeyes with 60% shooting including 9-18 on triple tries while holding OSU to 36% from the floor. For the tournament, Florida is averaging 82.4 ppg while holding opponents to 67.2 ppg.

Key Players: These guys have more weapons than Al-Qaeda. Swingman Corey Brewer led Florida with 19 against UCLA (4-5 3FGs) and the backcourt of Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green combined for 24 points. The Gators have a huge size advantage on the frontline. 6’10” Al Horford is their most polished big guy and he comes in averaging 13.1 points and 9.4 boards per game. Donovan led everyone to believe Horford wouldn’t play in the December match up but Big Al produced a double double (11, 11) in 28 minutes. 6’11” Joakim Noah presents a match up problem because of his versatility. As much as I can’t stand his on court antics, Noah is unquestionably the face of this team and averages 12.1 points and 8.6 boards per contest. 6’9” back up center Chris Richard will be playing with confidence after a 16 point performance against UCLA in which he didn’t miss a shot (7-7 FG, 2-2 FT).

Notes: Pat Forde notes Florida is 17-0 in postseason tournament play during their 2 year run -- the longest streak since UCLA won 28 in a row from ’67 – ’73.

Buckeye Breakdown: After tweaking the 2-3 zone against the Hoyas to limit the high post entry pass, will the Buckeyes test fate and play zone against Florida? They might have to because they don’t match up well on the front line. Matta may elect to at least start in zone to protect Oden and hope the Florida shooters struggle from the outside. The match up zone held Georgetown to 33% shooting from behind the arc although the Gator shooters are much more deadly than Jessie Sapp, Johathan Wallace and Dejuan Summers. Offensively, the Buckeyes need Butler to show up along with Conley and Oden because Ron Lewis might have some trouble against Florida’s Corey Brewer. Ohio State flat out quit in Gainesville but the team’s maturity level has grown significantly since. Bottom line, no matter the strategy, OSU will need to be clicking on all cylinders and Florida will need to make some mistakes in order for the Buckeyes to claim their first national title since 1960.

Key Players: Obviously, Oden has to play at least 30 minutes for OSU to have a chance but that likely won’t matter if the Buckeyes don’t shoot at least 50% from the floor. As noted, Lewis against Brewer will be a key match up. Ron Ron must rebound from a 1-8 performance against G-Town if the Bucks are to have a chance to pull the upset. The Buckeye bench outscored the Hoyas 11-0 and produced a 10-5 edge on the glass. Othello Hunter and Turdwiggler had 7 of the 10 boards while David Lighty chipped in 5 points while limiting Jeff Green’s touches at the other end. Depending on Matta’s sub pattern and choice of defenses, Lighty could spend some time trying to contain Brewer. Hunter could see extended minutes as OSU attempts to match the athleticism of Florida's bigs.

Notes: OSU has now won 22 straight games...Gregg Doyel of CBS thinks the game is a mismatch...OSU is making their 5th appearance in the title game and first since 1962 (loss to UC)...This marks the 4th straight season that Oden and Conley will play for a championship...OSU is 22-0 when they outrebound the opponent...Matta is 12-5 in the tournament and has taken all 6 of his postseason-eligible teams to the big dance.