NCAA: Goliath Vs Goliath

Ohio State center Greg Oden listens to a reporter's question at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Sunday, April 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
The NCAA basketball championship semi-finals were played Saturday night. We were treated to a double-header. The first game was between Ohio State and Georgetown, and the second was Florida against UCLA. The first game answered a question that many basketball fans had been asking recently: yes, Greg Oden will play at least one more college basketball game.

Most basketball "experts" predict that the seven-foot tall freshman Oden will forego the rest of his college career and soon sign on for millions of dollars to play in the NBA. He hasn't said what he'll do yet. I can't step into his size 19 or 20 shoes and say what the right thing to do is. I enjoyed my four years of college, but nobody was tempting me with $100 million or so to play a game for a living.

Oden's team, Ohio State, won their game. The contest could have been billed as "Goliath vs. Goliath." Both teams had a 7-footer in the starting lineup. Greg Oden is actually the smaller of the two players at "only" seven-feet. Georgetown's Roy Hibbert is listed at 7' 2".

Before the first minute had gone by, both big men committed fouls. Soon, they both had two fouls and were sitting on the bench so they wouldn't commit a third in the half. However, neither coach looked up to yell at their stars for making those mistakes. The first half ended with Ohio State up by four points.

The second half started with both big men playing hard and showing why being seven-feet tall is a definite advantage in basketball. But slowly, Ohio State pulled away, and then won the game 67 to 60.

But the game was not just a game of seven-footers. There's also the play of the "little guys" who are only six feet tall. Mike Conley Jr., a 6' 1" freshman guard, played spectacularly as he usually does. Conley went to high school with Oden where they played on the same team. If Oden goes pro, Conley will still give the fans something to watch next year.

It's interesting that the most spectacular play of the game was on a missed shot. Oden seemed to fly to the basket for a monstrous dunk that clanked off the back of the rim and flew back almost to half court. 53,000 people gasped in amazement. He was fouled on the play, so nobody could criticize him for missing the shot. But I don't think anyone would have anyway. We don't get to see a seven-foot 280-pound guy defy gravity that often.

The Florida-UCLA game ended up more one-sided than the first game, with Florida winning. Like in the opener, UCLA's star, Aaron Aflalo picked up two fouls before you could spell UCLA. And then Aflalo picked up his third foul of the first half, putting him on the bench.

Why do these stars get into foul trouble even though they know they should be especially careful in big games? A reporter asked Greg Oden this after his game. How could he possibly commit those early fouls since for the past two weeks, everybody has been saying that he couldn't afford to get into foul trouble? "Did the adrenaline take over? Did you just forget what you were doing? What happened out there?" Oden answered: "What happened? The ref blew his whistle. That's what happened?"

Simple wisdom from someone so young. But it didn't seem quite fair to those of us watching the games to see so much of them while the stars were sitting on the bench. It was like going to a play, thinking you were going to see Merryl Streep, and when you get to the theater, you find out that the part is going to be played by Minnie Driver.

But I'm not sure UCLA would have done that much better with Aflalo in there all the way. Florida was just too big, too fast, and, well, too good for them.

There were no games Sunday, but don't think it was a time for letting up and losing focus. The teams practiced as the coaches schemed all day trying to come up with ways to win the big game. And I'll do what I have to do to get ready for Monday night's game: take a nap.

By the way, the overs and unders on my nap is two hours.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
By Lloyd Garver