(All stats from KenPom's pages for the two teams: Georgetown and Ohio State.)
Defense wins championships, right? Not in this year's Final Four: Ohio State and Georgetown both feature an oustanding offensive and a very good defense, as does Florida on the other side of the bracket (UCLA is the token great defensive team this year). The Hoyas rank first in adjusted offensive efficiency at 125.1, and the Buckeyes are 4th with a very healthy 123.2. The Buckeyes counter with a slightly better defense, 87.7 efficiency, 14th, while the Hoyas are 18th nationally at 89.0. From an overall efficiency perspective, these two teams are very closely matchup, and is basically a pick'em.
GEORGETOWN ON OFFENSE
How They Win
When the Hoyas do well offensively, the most important thing they do is make shots. Yes, I know this seems obvious, but you're going to see it four times, because it's that important. Also strongly correlated with Hoya offensive efficiency are offensive rebounding and turnovers (pace is also strongly correlated, but I suspect that's a function of turnovers).
What They're Good At
Since they're the nation's most efficient offensive team, the Hoyas are good at a couple things. But the most important thing they're good at is making shots: 57.0% eFG, 4th nationally. In particular, they make 2 pointers, 57.7%, 2nd. They're not too bad at 3's, either, 37.1%, 69th, but they're not a POT, and take shots from behind the arc at about an average rate (34.6%, 156th). The Hoyas are very good at offensive rebounding, taking in 40.5% of their misses, 7th nationally. They're also pretty good at not getting their shots blocked, 7.1%, 44th. There are two related categories, however, where the Hoyas are not very good: turnovers and steals. Hoya turnovers occur on 21.9% of possessions, 209th, and 11.2% of possessions end in a steal, 273rd best. It's generally really, really hard to score when you give the ball away every fifth time you go down the court, but the Hoyas have managed it. Better, their trendline for this stat looks good: in none of their seven postseason games (BET + NCAAs) have the Hoyas turned the ball over on 20% of their possessions. Their longest previous such streak was a mere two games. This might be the result of some coaching emphasis by JT3 and the staff, heightened awareness and care by the players, or maybe just some good luck. If it ends on Saturday, the Hoyas will need to be even better in the other areas of performance.
OHIO STATE ON DEFENSE
How They Win
When the Buckeyes do well defensively, the most important thing they're doing is not letting their opponent make shots. This is still obvious, and still very important. The Buckeyes also win when they force turnovers, and lose when they let their opponent shoot lots and lots of free throws. Both Wisconsin and North Carolina had an FTR over 50% in their victories over the Buckeyes (Florida won because they shot the lights out).
What They're Good At
Remember that part above where I said Buckeye opponents who win shoot free throws? Nobody else shoots free throws against Ohio State (well, almost): 21.1% FTR, 2nd nationally (behind huh, what, really defensively dreadful Arizona). The Buckeyes are also excellent at blocking shots, 15.7%, 11th nationally. Teams also have trouble shooting the 2: 44.1%, 28th, and aren't good at 3's, either: 33.1%, 84th. This makes for a good combination: 46.2% eFG, 37th. Like Hoya opponents, Buckeye opponents shoot a lot of 3's, 37.3%, 270th fewest. The Buckeyes aren't too shabby on the offensive glass, either, allowing opponents to rebound 31.1% of their own shots, 69th best. The Buckeyes are a little above average, 10.2%, 136th, at stealing the ball, but they aren't very good at forcing turnovers, 20.1%, 218th.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Roy Hibbert is a beast on the offensive glass (14.7%, 19th). Greg Oden is a beast on the defensive glass (23.4%, 37th). 6'5" Daequan Cook is a very good defensive rebounder (20.9%, 98th, better than any Hoya). The Hoyas will have a height advantage at most positions most of the time, likely including whomever Cook is on. Can they successfully use that height to crash the glass?
Mike Conley is excellent at stealing the ball, 4.3%, 27th Will Wallace, Sapp, and Rivers protect the ball? Since nobody else on the Buckeyes gets any steals, will the Hoyas try to avoid playing against the ball with Conley?
Oden is a shot-altering presence in the middle (12.8% blocks, 8th). Oden's likely replacement, 6'9" Othello Hunter isn't too bad, either (6.8%, 69th). Tennessee's last chance failed because Ramar Smith did the dribble penetration and Oden was there to block his shot (seriously, how did you not know that was going to happen?). If the Buckeyes play zone, as would seem likely, how will the Hoyas deal with Oden in the middle?
OHIO STATE ON OFFENSE
The Buckeyes triumphed over Memphis in the South Regional Final by a final score of 92-76. But the game wasn't a blowout the entire way. At the 11:43 mark of the second half, Antonio Anderson hit a jumper to stake the Tigers to a 58-54 lead. On Ohio State's ensuing possession, Joey Dorsey hacked Mike Conley Jr. to pick up his fourth foul, and the parade of Buckeyes to the line began. In the first 28 minutes of the game, Memphis took 18 from the free throw line, and Ohio State took 15. Over the last 11 1/2 minutes, the Tigers took a mere 2 from the charity stripe, and the Buckeyes were granted 26. Yes, some of those attempts (12, probably) were the result of the "mandatory" foul-and-three late-game strategy. But even discounting those, that's still a 14-2 disparity. Naturally, none of the commentary I've seen has focused on this little piece of news. Yes, Memphis sent their opponents to the line a lot. But this was really a key factor in the Buckeye win Saturday, and also in their win against Tennessee on Thursday (68.6 FTR).
How They Win
Oddly, though, getting to the line isn't something the Buckeyes are that great out. Their overall FTR rate is actually a hair worse than that of the Hoyas, at 26.0, 136th nationally. What they do do to win is hit shots. Yes, I'm going to say it again. When teams make their shots, they play do well offensively. The Buckeyes also do well offensively when they crash the glass. Greg Oden and Othello Hunter are both dynamite offensive rebounders, ranking in the top 16 nationally. But overall, the Buckeyes are only an average offensive rebounding team (34.7%, 128th). If you can prevent the center from getting rebounds, you're that much closer to victory.
What They're Good At
Thanks in part to Mike Conley Jr., the Buckeyes are very good at holding onto the basketball. They only turn the ball over 17.5% of the time, 22nd nationally. Remember how Georgetown hasn't turned the ball over much lately? You have to go back 20 games before you find a single game where Ohio State turned the ball over as much as Georgetown has in an average game this year. Relatedly, the Buckeyes also rank 22nd nationally in preventing steals. The Buckeyes are pretty good at making their shots: they hit 53.4% of their 2's, 22nd nationally (seriously, is Tyler Crawford available for a hex?). It's also hard to block their shots, even harder than it is to block a Hoya's shot (6.9%, 33rd). They shoot ok from 3, 36.8%, and are above average at how frequently they shoot them, 36.8%, 103rd), but they shoot 2's a lot for a team often made up for Oden and four guys who are largely perimeter players (sorry, Wonk, they really don't have much inside depth). Importantly, there aren't any aspects of the offensive game the Buckeyes are bad at.
GEORGETOWN ON DEFENSE
How They Win
When Georgetown is playing well defensively, everything can matter. Naturally, the best correlation comes with ... you guessed it, keeping the opponent from making shots. I know, you're all shocked. The Hoyas also do well defensively when they prevent the opponent from getting offensive rebounds (see North Carolina game, first half versus end of game). The Hoyas do well defensively when they force their opponent to turn the ball over. The Hoyas do well defensively when they don't turn the ball over on the offensive end--based on this, I expected transition D to be a big key to the North Carolina game, and the Hoyas performed better than I expected. One game does not make a trend, though, and the Hoyas would be wise to keep up their current trend of not turning the ball over very often. Hoya opponents also score frequently when they get to the line a lot (again, see UNC, first half versus end of game; see also Syracuse and Duke).
What They're Good At
I keep harping on making shots on offense and preventing the other team from making shots on defense. Well, the Hoyas are really, really good at this on defense. Opponents hit only 43% of their 2's, 13th best, and 30.3% of their 3's, 7th best. Even better, perhaps, Hoya opponents shoot the 3 even more frequently than Buckeye opponents do (38.1% 3 pointers, 291st fewest). Part of the reason opponents shoot 3's rather than 2's, and shoot so poorly, is the Hoyas block shots, better even than the Buckeyes (16.0%, 9th best). The Hoyas are also pretty good at not sending opponents to the line, 32.1%, 78th. Thus endeth the list of things the Hoyas are good at defensively. The bad news: the Hoyas don't force their opponents to turn the ball over, and they don't get steals. Again, the Hoyas are atypical: most good offensive teams don't turn the ball over very much, and most good defensive teams force turnovers. These aspects of the game make up for ills in other places, and it's rare for a team to be like the Hoyas. But, the Hoyas are the Hoyas, and should be treated as such. Ceteris paribus, you'd like to see the Hoyas force more turnovers on defense. But (1) the Buckeyes are very good at not turning the ball over and (2) if it means the opposing teams make more of their shots, forcing turnovers may not be worth it. For being such a big team, the Hoyas are surprisingly mediocre at protecting the glass, taking in only 66.4% of missed shots, 174th best. Interestingly, Hoya opponents shoot 71.1% from the line, 272nd best/worst. Stylistically this is an interesting stat: are the rims more friendly than normal in a team's home gym? Is a team just unlucky? Or do they tend to foul perimeter guys, who tend to be good foul shooters? I suspect this last is most important, but can't say for sure.
Daequan Cook only plays about half the minutes, but when he's in, he makes sure his presence is felt, taking 29.7% of shots when he's in the game. He's Ohio State's best 3-point shooter at 42.2%, but is comparatively unimpressive on 2's, hitting a mere 47.0%.
Jamar Butler plays the most of any Buckeye, but doesn't take that many shots (15.4%), and most of those are from long range (190 attempts from beyond the arc, 58 from inside).
Hibbert, Green, Ewing, and Summers are all very good shot blockers, and should be as taller as the man they're guarding (except whoever's one Oden when Hibbert is out). How will the Buckeyes make sure they get their shots up?
Greg Oden has never played against somebody taller than him (well, at least not in a game in the past couple years). How will he handle playing somebody he can't look over?
Mike Conley may not be much of a distance shooter (30.2% on 3's, though he has looked better since the beginning of the year), but he takes (and makes) good shots (57.5% on 2's). Whose job is it to stop his dribble penetration?
The Buckeyes have four guys who've taken at least 125 3 pointers this year. None is as good as Wallace, nor as bad as Sapp. Will somebody have an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad night from beyond the arc? If somebody is having a good game, will the Hoyas adjust to defend against one of a couple different players who can shoot from range?
WHAT I HOPE FOR
A repeat of last year's game. Georgetown using its size advantage effectively. Precision execution. Greg Oden being frustrated. Mike Conley without more than a steal or two.
WHAT I FEAR
The game decided on whether Wonk's statement applies better to Oden or Hibbert. Mike Conley with a triple double. Greg Oden's presence forcing too many outside shots from Sapp and Summers. Hot Buckeye three point shooting. Thad Matta's ABC gum. Oden and Hunter dominating the offensive boards.
Hoyas, 70-62. I feel MUCH better about this game after going through this preview. These two teams do a lot of the same things well, but the Hoyas do most of them a little bit better.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Guest Analysis: GU-OSU Preview
I'd have to say that one of the best parts of starting this blog is the occasional contribution I receive. This one is probably the best so far, by Tom G. (last name withheld in case he billed this tome to a client):