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A breakdown of the Final Four, looking at a not-so-random strength and weakness of each team.

Ohio State

Strength: Oden.

If you don’t think Greg Oden is the most dominant player in the college game, you’re just not thinking. Luke Winn has documented the plus/minus data on Oden, but that’s only half the story. As done previously, I prefer to compare what happens to the Buckeyes while Oden is on and off the court. Here’s how Ohio State have fared in both cases:

Opp.        ON    OFF
Memphis   64-38  28-38
Tennessee 40-26  45-58
Xavier    55-52  23-19
CCSU      60-39  18-18

Ohio State opponents not only need to get Oden off the court, but beat up the Buckeyes while he’s on the bench. (OK, Xavier was an exception. Mad props to Justin Cage and Brandon Cole.)

If I could see one stat from the Georgetown game, it would be the breakdown of scoring using an Oden/Hibbert matrix.

       On    Off
d  On
n  Off

And then we’d fill in the score with what each team does in these respective situations. The nice thing is, we can do that!

Secondary strength worth noting: keeping opponents off the free throw line.

Weakness: Defending 3’s.

Opponents shoot a lot of 3’s against the Buckeyes, partly out of necessity and partly because Thad Matta isn’t afraid to employ a zone from time to time. It does puzzle me sometimes that people will simply look at a team’s 3-point percentage and declare their perimeter ability based on that.

It not only matters how many 3’s are made, but how many are taken. For instance, the Buckeyes have held opponents to a respectable 33.1% from behind the arc (ranking 84th in the country), but have allowed opponents to take 37.3% of their shots from there (67th most).

In fact, that’ll be my 3-point notation from now on. Ohio State’s opponents shoot .331[.373] from long range, (the national average is about .347[.339]). But in the tourney, it’s been an outrageous .431[.423]. The four Buckeye opponents have taken a lot of 3’s and made a lot of them. Georgetown as an offense is .371[.346], so they make a nice percentage but don’t necessarily shoot a lot of them. But just about every Hoya shoots it.



Strength: Cramming it down your throat.

That’s the only way to describe the Hoya offense. Never before* has there been a combination of shooting efficiency (4th nationally) and offensive rebounding (7th nationally) seen in the sport. And they seem to be getting better in the tournament.

Both Oden and Hibbert draw fouls like crazy, so I think it’s likely that both guys will be managing foul trouble during this one. So it’s imperative for Ohio State to force a few 3’s to keep the pressure off of the middle. Georgetown isn’t Northwestern – everybody can crash the offensive boards for Georgetown, and if Oden can’t stay on the floor, that problem will only get worse.

*since 2003-04 season

Weakness: Turnovers.

Georgetown has been turnover prone, but they’ve done a better job during the tourney. Basically, if they’re not coughing up the ball, prepare to need an insane offensive night to beat them. Talk to Vanderbilt and UNC about that one. The Hoyas don’t figure to get the offensive boards or shooting percentage they’ve had in their last few games, so they can’t commit too many turnovers if they want to post another efficiency above 110.

The one guy that doesn’t give up the ball is Roy Hibbert. Oden is the more dominant player considering both sides of the ball and his playing time advantage. But offensively, when each is on the floor, there’s not much difference.

         ORtg/%Poss  OR%  TO%
Oden    116.4/25.9  14.8 16.2
Hibbert 131.6/22.4  14.7 13.7

Hibbert doesn’t use as many possessions, but he may actually handle the ball more than Oden, making his microscopic turnover rate that much more impressive. I could make the case that normalized for playing time, Hibbert has been the more effective offensive player of the two.



Strength: Shot selection.

Dunks and 3’s are a good recipe for a powerful offense and that’s what Florida does. As we saw yesterday, the ratio of 3-point attempts to 2-point jumpers in the tournament is about 1.16 to 1. For the Gators, that ratio has been 2.3 to 1 in their last four games, and they’re making 38% of their 3’s.

One of the indelible impressions from the last time these teams met was the nine dunks by the Gators. As long as the Gators can get to the rim like that again, their offense will be fine.

Weakness: uh, well…

There isn’t an obvious weakness, but there are a couple of areas were Florida hasn’t been the same as last season. Corey Brewer hasn’t shot the 3 as well (31.1% this season vs. 35.0% last season). True, as long as he shuts down Arron Afflalo like he did in the last meeting, Florida should move on.

The other item of note is Joakim Noah’s decline.

       ORtg/%Poss eFG%  OR%   TO%   FT%
2007  115.4/25.6  61.4  13.5  22.2  66.7
2006  122.4/25.9  62.7  11.3  17.5  73.3

On a team that has been more efficient overall, Noah has taken a step back from simply outstanding to merely very good. You can pretty much chalk it up to an increased turnover rate.



Strength: Defense.

There’s nothing specific here, UCLA wins with defense and it has been stellar in the tourney. They held Weber State to its 2nd-worst efficiency of the season, then Indiana to its 2nd-worst, Pitt to its 3rd-worst, and Kansas to its worst game of the season.

This trajectory would put Florida’s efficiency in the mid 90s for the game, which would give UCLA a chance and be a huge improvement on the 111 surrendered in the ‘06 final.

Weakness: Dependence on Arron Afflalo offensively.

As mentioned, Afflalo draws the bad matchup of long-armed Corey Brewer. Last season, Afflalo took 26.5% of the Bruins’ shots while he was on the court. This season, that’s up to 27.7%. If crippling Afflalo could hurt the UCLA offense so badly last season, what would it do this season?

It’s a complicated game, and shutting down Afflalo in itself doesn’t guarantee Florida. But given that you wouldn’t expect the Bruins to get much production up front, you’d have to wonder where the points would come from.