Many were eager to see Greg Oden make his collegiate debut earlier
than expected. We're guessing the Florida Gators were not among that group.
Unlike North Carolina (9-1), which got to face Ohio State (10-1) without
the mega-hyped prep star last month, the Gators (10-2) won't be so
Florida plays host to the Buckeyes and Oden on Saturday, a full three weeks
after Oden played his first game. The top-five showdown has been chosen as
Rivals.com's Game of the Week.
The 7-foot-1 Oden, who was originally scheduled to return from a wrist
injury on Jan. 1, has played four games and is off to an impressive start.
He's averaging 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks a game, while
shooting 73 percent from the field.
Making matters worse for the Gators is the recent news that power forward
Al Horford, one of the nation's top post players, will miss the
game because of a sprained ankle. Horford, who has missed the last two
games with the ankle injury, is the Gators' leading scorer and rebounder.
He is averaging 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.
We break down all the individual matchups (with the presumption that
Chris Richard will start in place of Horford) in this in-depth
Game of the Week: No. 3 Ohio State (10-1) at No. 5 Florida (10-2)
This could be the best one-on-one matchup of the year. Plenty of pro scouts
certainly feel that way. Noah (6-11, 230) might have been the No. 1 pick in
the 2006 NBA Draft if he would have made himself eligible. Oden (7-0, 240)
is considered a lock for the top pick in the upcoming draft. Both excel at
rebounding and defense. Noah (12.5 ppg), who has a tremendous wingspan, is
more versatile. He moves well without the ball and is able to defend
smaller players on the perimeter. Oden (15.5 ppg) is stronger and has an
imposing frame. The real difference could come down to experience. Oden has
only played four games and has never been in a contest of this magnitude.
Look for the Gators to use Noah in a lot of pick-and-rolls in an effort to
test Oden's ability to defend away from the basket. Edge: Florida.
Finesse meets power when these two veterans go head-to-head. Harris (6-7,
220) is a 3-point specialist who spends much of his time hanging around the
arc. He likes to wait for Mike Conley or Jamar Butler to
penetrate to the hoop and dish the ball back outside. More than half of
Harris' field goal attempts are from 3-point range (53 of 93), and he has
made 49 percent of them. Richard (6-9, 255) does nearly all his damage
around the basket. The big man lacks the athleticism and offensive polish
of Horford, but he possesses tremendous strength and a good knack for
getting the right position for rebounds. Harris should create the bigger
matchup problem. Richard is not used to guarding players on the
perimeter. Edge: Ohio State.
Just three days ago, Brewer's status remained uncertain for this game. The
versatile 6-9, 185-pound junior was recovering from mononucleosis. In his
first game back last week he played just 11 minutes. On Tuesday, he looked
every bit his former self. Brewer scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds
and added five assists in Florida's 88-67 win over Stetson. That's great
news for the Gators, who also rely on his ability to shut down the
opponent's best wing. For OSU, that's often Lewis (6-4, 200). A pure
scorer, the senior can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket or
knock down 3-pointers with regularity. Lewis' role has diminished since the
arrival of Oden. He's taking just six shots a game with the big man in the
lineup, compared to 12.4 a game before Oden's return. Lewis is averaging
nine points in his last four games, compared to the 18.8 a game he was
averaging through seven games. Edge: Florida.
Leave Humphrey (6-2, 190) open from beyond the arc and the senior is about
as automatic as anyone in the nation. Humphrey led the SEC with a 46
percent shooting percentage from 3-point range last season. However,
getting him open looks will be very difficult. Butler (6-2, 205) possesses
the speed and quickness to really bother Humphrey, who is an average
ballhandler at best. Offensively, Butler is much more of a catalyst. He
gives the Buckeyes a second true point guard on the floor. The junior
regularly beats defenders off the dribble and fires pinpoint passes to
wide-open teammates. He's averaging 4.8 assists a game and has a 2.5-to-1
assist-to-turnover ratio. Edge: Ohio State.
Conley (6-1, 180) hasn't shown any signs of playing like a freshman point
guard yet. The five-star recruit, who was teammates with Oden in high
school, has done a masterful job running the Buckeyes offense. He has
consistently made his way into the lane and has been creating offense for
others. He has made great decisions with the ball in his hands. Conley is
averaging a Big Ten-high 6.4 assists a game and owns a remarkable 3-to-1
assist-to-turnover ratio. Green (6-0, 177) tends to make a few more errors,
although he is more of a scoring threat. The junior is averaging 12.8
points a game, and his 25-point performance against Kansas earlier this
year should concern the Buckeyes. The Jayhawks are filled with quick and
athletic defenders on the perimeter, much like Conley and Butler. Edge: Ohio State.
Ohio State bench vs. Florida bench
Being forced to move Chris Richard into the starting lineup is a
major blow to Florida's bench. Richard and guard Walter Hodge
(pictured), who started when Brewer missed three games earlier this year,
are the only two reserves who have played regular minutes in big games.
That likely means freshmen forwards Dan Werner and Maresse
Speights will see more playing time than usual. The Buckeyes have a
much deeper set of reserves, led by dangerous wing Daequan Cook
(pictured). The mega-talented freshman is averaging 16.1 points a game
despite having not started yet. Guard David Lighty (6.2 ppg) and
forwards Othello Hunter (7.5 ppg) and Matt Terwilliger
(4.0 ppg) all contribute as well. Edge: Ohio State.
No coach may be hotter than Ohio State's Thad Matta at the moment,
on or off the court. While leading the Buckeyes to this great start, Matta
and his staff have also managed to land several highly touted commits for
the 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes. All this comes after Matta led the
Buckeyes to the Big Ten title last season in just his second year in
Columbus. Florida's Billy Donovan had developed a reputation as a
great recruiter but underachieving coach due to a run of several
disappointing losses in the postseason. That all changed last season when
he led a young Gators team ? which wasn't ranked in the preseason polls ?
to the school's first national title. Donovan likes to push the tempo of
the game, often employing presses and risky defensive tactics. Matta is
more conservative, although he seems to be giving his players more and more
freedom on the offensive end this year. Edge: Florida.