Best Performance: Greg Oden, Ohio State
One can only imagine Coach John Calipari’s reaction.
Trying to get ready for his Elite Eight showdown with the #1 team in the country, a team on a 20 game winning streak, he opens up the newspaper or turns on the TV and discovers what his star forward Joey Dorsey had been saying about his match-up with Greg Oden:
"I'm an underrated big man and he's a lot overrated as a big man."
"I'm going to have a 20-rebound night.."
"I'm Goliath… he's the little man."
So, right before the biggest game of the year, Dorsey talks trash about one of the most heralded freshmen in memory who had just come off two disappointing (by his standards), foul-plagued games. Oden needed a spark, and boy did Dorsey give him one.
The result was predictable. Again being forced to play limited minutes due to foul trouble, Oden made 7-of-8 shots for 17 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. But his stat line doesn’t tell the whole story. He was simply dominant inside, altering shot after shot, and completely disrupting the Memphis offense. He also threw down two dunks that looked like the break-away rim was going to be launched into the 10th row, giving his team a huge emotional lift.
Once again, Ron Lewis and Mike Conley were outstanding. They combined for 41 points and went an amazing 19-20 from the foul line, helping to ensure the victory down the stretch. At this rate, it would take a complete tanking in Atlanta for both of them not to make our all-Tournament team.
But this night belonged to Greg Oden. For the record, Oden held Dorsey to four rebounds (or 16 less than predicted) and zero points, his only scoreless game of the season.
As Memphis coach John Calipari said of Oden after the game, "He's huge, he's huge." Or, as Dorsey would say, a Goliath.
First Runner-Up: Arron Afflalo, UCLA
After shooting a combined 5 for 22 in UCLA’s two previous Tournament games against Pitt and Indiana, many people were wondering if the Bruins had any kind of chance against the loaded Kansas Jayhawks if he had another off-night. Answer: no way.
Afflalo was superb. He wound up with 24 points on 10-15 shooting, with 15 of those points coming after halftime. Kansas was down only high single digits throughout all but the waning seconds of the second half, and with the Jayhawks’ penchant for big runs, it seemed it was only a matter of time before UCLA folded.
But Afflalo wouldn’t let them. He was absolutely clutch when his teammates needed him most. He hit at least two 3-pointers with the shot clock down to one, with a defender right in his face, and most of his other made buckets were heavily contested. Darren Collison also hit one from at least 25 feet with under 5 minutes to play with the shot clock about to expire. Every one of those shots was an emotional backbreaker for the Jayhawks, who were desperately looking to spark a comeback.
In all UCLA’s tremendous defense held the Jayhawks to just 55 points, their lowest scoring game of the season. KU was also forced into 21 turnovers. Granted, 19 missed layups and dunks, and yet another lousy night at the free throw line by the Jawhawks didn’t help either.
Second Runner-Up: Jonathan Wallace, Georgetown
Jonathan Wallace picked a fine time to have the game of his life.
Wallace scored 19 points on 7-11 shooting, including 3-4 from beyond the arc, his second highest total of the season. He also had 7 assists versus just a single turnover.
However, his play over the last 15 minutes – when Carolina missed 22 of 23 field goal attempts and Georgetown went on a 17-0 run – was a big reason for the Hoyas’ improbable comeback. Wallace hit the game tying 3 with 31 seconds left to help send the game into overtime, where the Hoyas would dominate and earn their first trip back to the Final Four in over 20 years.
Collegehoops.net Elite Eight MVP:
Greg Oden, Ohio State
All Elite Eight Team:
Greg Oden, Ohio State
Arron Afflalo, UCLA
Jonathan Wallace, Georgetown
Aaron Brooks, Oregon
Lee Humphrey, Florida