In their lone season at Ohio State, Greg Oden and Mike Conley piloted an adventurous ride to the 2007 NCAA Championship Game. Because it’s been 50 years since the program has hung a championship banner, the 2006-07 squad is now the standard by which we evaluate the great Buckeye basketball teams.
We might have to adjust our measuring stick.
These Buckeyes, of the 20-0 variety, are threatening to exceed the scarlet standard. Whether Buckeye Nation cares, the notion that OSU is solely a football school is under siege. Buckeye basketball is back on the map, and coach Thad Matta is trying to make it the capital of college hoops.
As talented as the 2006-07 team was, the current crop of Buckeye ballers is even better.
These Buckeyes are more versatile. Six players have led OSU in scoring in at least one game this season.
Freshman forward Deshaun Thomas ignited the second-half run Saturday that propelled OSU to victory by nailing a pair of 3-pointers and working his defender in the paint for a layup, all in a span of four minutes. The ability of the 6-foot-6 freshman to score in multiple ways helped to turn a three-point deficit into a six-point lead.
Thomas and fellow wing players David Lighty and William Buford can all score inside and out.
Those 2006-07 Buckeyes didn’t have that flexibility.
Freshman phenom Jared Sullinger can step out and hit a midrange jump shot. When he dressed in scarlet and gray, Oden was anchored in the low post, relegated to dunks and short hook shots.
Jamar Butler, Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris, all capable shooters, didn’t have the size to help Oden in the paint. The 6-4 Lewis and 6-1 Butler preferred to pull up from deep rather than enter the land of the unknown down low. Despite his 6-7 frame, Harris rarely stepped inside the 3-point arc.
Foul trouble hasn’t been an issue for these Buckeyes. Sullinger crashed the boards for all 40 minutes Saturday and only picked up two fouls.
Those Buckeyes didn’t have the same good fortune. In OSU’s NCAA Tournament run, refs assessed Oden at least four personal fouls in every contest, save the opening-round formality against Central Connecticut State. In narrow victories against Tennessee, Memphis and Georgetown ahead of the title game, foul trouble limited Oden to 18, 24 and 20 minutes, respectively.
Three months before OSU’s loss in the National Championship Game against Florida, the Gators chomped Matta’s squad by 26. Alas, those Buckeyes knew their limits.
For these Buckeyes, the sky is the limit.