As soon as word leaked that Greg Oden would be missing time at the beginning of his freshman season because of torn ligaments in his shooting hand, the questions started to surface.
How much would playing with just one effective hand slow down the 7-footer? Could he get back to the dominating form that made him one of the most heavily anticipated recruits ever? Could he still live up to all of the massive hype?
When it came to defense, all the concerns quickly proved irrelevant. After missing Ohio State's first seven games, the celebrated rookie blocked five shots in his debut. He blocked five more in each of his next two games.
Oden went on to endure some inconsistent performances on offense, but always gave the Buckeyes a huge defensive force on the inside that other opponents couldn't match. The big man averaged a Big Ten-high 3.4 blocks and 9.8 rebounds a game, numbers that powered the top-ranked Buckeyes to a 20-game winning streak and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Fittingly, it was Oden's block in the closing seconds that sealed a dramatic 85-84 win over Tennessee in the regional semifinals on Thursday night.
That type of clutch play and impressive production made Oden Rivals.com's 2006-07 Defensive Player of the Year. Oden headlines Rivals.com's All-Defensive First Team, a diverse group that also includes selections from the ACC, Big East, Big 12 and SEC.
Virginia Tech's Jamon Gordon, Marquette's Jerel McNeal and Kansas' Mario Chalmers each were voted the defensive player of the year in their respective leagues (Chalmers shared the honor in the Big 12 with Oklahoma State's Marcus Dove.) Florida's versatile forward Corey Brewer was voted to the SEC's All-Defensive team for the second consecutive season.
Here are the 2007 Rivals.com Basketball All-Defensive teams:
Rivals.com 2006-07 All-Defensive First Team
Jerel McNeal, So., G Marquette, 6-3, 185
There was no better defender in the Big East than this sophomore, who averaged a whopping 2.6 steals per game. McNeal racked up six steals in three separate games, including the Eagles' triumph over Duke in November. He was voted the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
Mario Chalmers, So., G Kansas, 6-1, 195
The quickest hands in college basketball belong to this former McDonald's All-American from Anchorage, Ala. The sophomore has piled up three or more steals in 34 games. That includes 15 this
season while leading a defense that allows opponents to shoot a frigid 37 percent from the field. He was selected co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Jamon Gordon, Sr., G Virginia Tech, 6-3, 210
The ACC's Defensive Player of the Year made a career of hounding opposing point guards. Gordon averaged two or more steals per game in each of his four years, including a career-best 2.8 per
game this past season. He collected seven swipes in the Hokies' comeback win over Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Corey Brewer, Jr., SF Florida, 6-9, 185
This wiry veteran can guard a plethora of positions and excel at them all. That showed more than ever this season as Brewer averaged a career-high 1.9 steals a game while often holding the
opponents' best perimeter player below his scoring average. He also added 4.6 rebounds a game.
Greg Oden, Fr., C Ohio State, 7-0, 280
As expected, this mega-hyped big man made his biggest impact on the defensive end. Oden led the Big Ten by wide margins in blocks (3.4) and rebounds (9.8) per game, making him an easy
choice for the league's defensive player of the year.