Friday, March 23, 2007

This team is gonna give me a heart attack

So, for the second time in six days, I find myself milling around and mumbling "I can't believe we won that fucking game." I called Dids immediately afterward, and he picked up his phone and, without any initial pleasantries, said in a weary, tired voice, "Jeebus." "Indeed," I replied. "Sweet, sweet Jeebus," he said. Things went on like that for a minute or so before we were able to get our bearings and have a rational if somewhat emotionally drained conversation about the game. I suppose it also bears mentioning that Evan sent Jeff, Todd, and I the same text message as soon as Ramar Smith's runner hit the floor: "Whistles go WOO!"

As has been pointed out by Wonk and others, OSU probably took Tennessee's best shot last night. Wonk said on Tuesday that the game would come down to how Tennessee shot from beyond the arc -- he essentially said that if they were missing their threes, they'd lose, but if they were hitting a high percentage of them, they might win. And so it was, as Tennessee finished 16-31 on triples. (The only other key variable was turnovers, and we only turned it over 8 times in a 68 possession game.) Without question, the Vols could not have scripted a better beginning to the game: at the 10:00 mark of the first half, 1.) UT was 7-10 on threes, and 2.) Oden and Conley were both on the bench with two fouls (and each would pick up a third before the intermission). And make no mistake: this team looked God-awful with those two riding the pine. I've seen some people around the eBays today say crap about OSU proving they could win "without" Oden. Well, they won without him putting up much in the way of stats, but the team was +14 in Oden's scant 18 minutes on the floor. And note that Conley was +9. I'm more surprised that we won with those two sitting so much than I am that we won despite UT being so hot from 3.

Tennessee employed a more aggressive (and insidious) form of the "try to get Oden in foul trouble" ploy: with their flex offense constantly sending cutters through the lane, any time one was in the vicinity of Oden, they would run into him and stagger backward. This somewhat infamously was the root of Oden's fourth foul, which came at the tail end of a big run in the first 8 minutes of the second half. And quite frankly, I think every one of Greg's fouls in this game were chincy at best, except for the offensive "hook" he used to get his second foul. His first and fourth were on similar "bumps" in the lane, and his third was one of those "well, it looks like he might have grazed some arm there on that blocked shot" referee assumptions. Which drive me crazy.

And yes, Sideshow Matt was 100% serviceable, which in my mind he is every time he doesn't shoot. He got us a lot of second chances by tipping misses back out to midcourt, which I suppose he really should have been able to do, considering the midget lineup Tennessee employed for much of the second half. If DaQuan Cook is still entertaining notions of jumping to the NBA, he's clinically insane. I mean, it's okay to get cold - Dr. Je'Kel spent the last two months of 2006 eating moon pies with Frostillicus, after all - IF you can contribute in other facets. But Cook got backdoored in embarrassing fashion - twice! - in the first half yesterday, and isn't rebounding as well as he did pre-Oden, either.

I have such a love/hate relationship with Ron Lewis. I mean, he takes some terrible shots, but he's hitting a mindblowingly decent percentage of them, and that's the main reason we're still playing in this tournament, as Jamar Butler - the guy who got to the point this year where if his feet were set I'd be legitimately surprised if his jumper didn't go in - has gone through some lulls where he's apparently forgotten how to shoot. Ivan Harris is still doing this weird thing where, when he's in the game, the offense looks like crap but he hits a few threes. Is he saving our bacon, or is he the reason the rest of the offense looks so-so when he's out there? Last night he played 17 minutes and scored 1/3 of the points we put up while he was playing. Ivan Harris! Zuh? Woozle wuzzle?

Also, David Lighty made a three-pointer. And the universe hasn't collapsed on itself yet. I'm gonna take that as a good sign. On to Memphis tomorrow. I think I need to take some Pepto.


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