Inside the College Game

Wed, 01/23/2008 - 11:24am

By Adi Joseph

They call him “Boom.”

[img_assist|nid=3523|title=Bambale Osby|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=509]With an uneven afro, a chiseled frame and an unbridled enthusiasm for the game, Maryland’s Bambale Osby is a fan-favorite down in College Park. He models his game after his favorite player, Ben Wallace, and as a result, most of Osby’s contributions come on the defensive end and with rebounding. Offensively, Osby’s game is rough and unpolished.

Still, with the game on the line at No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday, Terp coach Gary Williams called Osby’s number. The former junior college transfer had taken on All-American Tyler Hansbrough all afternoon and now had the duty of scoring a crucial basket in a tied game.

Williams organized a tremendous play – one that showed tremendous faith in his senior big man. Star James Gist drew Hansbrough away from the basket while Osby posted up the smaller Danny Green. Gist then tossed an entry pass into Osby, who caught, turned and scored quicker than the overmatched Green could possibly have expected.

It was an illogical move to go with Osby over the hot hand of Gist or slashing guard Greivis Vasquez. It was Williams showing off his wily in-game coaching ability and beating North Carolina coach Roy Williams in the figurative game of chess that had occurred throughout Saturday’s biggest upset.

Gary Williams is not a great recruiter. He’s struggled to graduate players. At times, his flex offense looks both outdated and predictable. But no one can question his in-game management. He is, in many ways, the opposite of the coach on the other side of the scorer’s table Saturday. Roy Williams has been out-coached in enough big games over his career that his strategies on the fly have been called into question more than any top coach in college basketball.

Gary Williams won his team the game. It helped that the Tar Heels were cold from the perimeter. But above all else, Gary Williams simply was one step ahead of Roy Williams. The advantage showed brightest on the game’s two biggest plays. Knowing the Tar Heels would put Hansbrough on Gist, Gary Williams exploited the undersized Green to take the lead. Then with three seconds remaining, the Terps forced Hansbrough too far out on the perimeter to take a high-percentage shot, forcing the big man to take a desperation three-pointer which clanked.

The Terps probably don’t have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament this season. Home losses to Ohio and American have set the path to the Big Dance on top of a giant mountain that would probably require a 10-6 conference record. But Gary Williams is a mastermind of in-game strategy and has consistently been able to pump his teams up for the biggest games, such as the Terps’ four straight wins over Duke and North Carolina.

The Tar Heels have been exposed early in ACC play. Their offense doesn’t have enough depth to allow for cold shooting nights from Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington and defensively they can be beaten by teams that are willing to match their aggressiveness.

Regardless, North Carolina will surely wind up with a high seed in the NCAA tournament. It’s at that point, while Osby and his teammates are likely sitting at home, that we will see if the weaknesses they helped to expose will put an end to the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

For now, let’s start the show!

The Year of the THICK

Osby overpowered Green for his big bucket Saturday. With his powerful frame, Osby is one of the strongest players in the nation even if he doesn’t have quite the skill set of other top bigs.

Osby, who said earlier this year that he dropped about eight pounds in the off-season to better keep up with the running Terps, isn’t alone in moving his weight around inside. This season is filled with top big men clearing room in the post to make a major impact. Just about every top team has someone to clog the lane like a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, even if that guy is playing as small a role as Brian Williams, Tennessee’s massive reserve center.

Here are a few of the biggest – no pun intended:

Richard Hendrix, Alabama

Senior | Height: 6’9” | Listed Weight: 255 | Averages: 19.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, .639

Hendrix is a monster in the paint. He’s a throwback forward with some Karl Malone in his game. One of the strongest players in college basketball, Hendrix also has one of the softest touches in the game. He was a top-10 recruit for the Crimson Tide, and this season he has completely stepped out of the shadows of Jermareo Davidson and Ronald Steele.

D.J. White, Indiana

Senior | Height: 6’9” | Listed Weight: 251 | Averages: 16.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg, .633

No one has impressed and surprised me as much as White this season. I had spent the better part of three seasons believing White was simply too soft to ever deliver on his immense promise. Now, he’s toughened up and started rebounding at a high rate. It’s also worth noting that White’s back up, 295-pound DeAndre Thomas, has amazing agility and skill level for his weight.

Joey Dorsey, Memphis

Senior | Height: 6’9” | Listed Weight: 265 | Averages: 7.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg, .714

One of the most athletic players on this list, Dorsey truly makes his impact felt on the defensive end. He is an outstanding rebounder, shot-blocker and on-ball defender. Dorsey hustles and provides an outstanding mean-streak for the newly-crowned No. 1 Memphis Tigers. He may not be the best player on the team, but he might be the most important.

Dwayne Curtis, Mississippi

Senior | Height: 6’8” | Listed Weight: 262 | Averages: 15.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, .687

Mississippi’s surprising start has led freshman point guard Chris Warren into a lot of glory. And Warren certainly deserves it. But it is Curtis who is the heart and soul of Ole Miss. The senior banger plays with great tenacity, and his rebounding and post-scoring are crucial if the Rebels are to continue their hot start. If you must ride on someone’s back, why not a nice, wide one?

Jon Brockman, Washington

Junior | Height: 6’7” | Listed Weight: 245 | Averages: 18.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg, .550

Opon first glance at Brockman, one might laugh a little bit at the idea that this guy is an elite basketball player. In comparison to the 6-feet-10-inch lanky athletes Brockman goes up against regularly, he looks like a rec-league player. But the truth is, the Washington junior throws his weight around with force and makes his presence known. And he’s got some unexpected ups too. The bruiser could certainly make a lot of money in Europe if his NBA bid falls short, and seems to be a guy that could play tight end in the NFL if he wanted to.

Aron Baynes, Washington State

Junior | Height: 6’10” | Listed Weight: 270 | Averages: 12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, .615

After struggling with his weight and conditioning last season, among other issues, Baynes has come into his own as a junior. He provides the Cougars with the missing piece, the one area they lacked last season, a top-end post scorer. Baynes thrives as a centerpiece in the slow, methodical Cougars offense. He’s still improving on the boards, but Baynes’ soft touch can be pretty.

Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

Sophomore | Height: 6’8” | Listed Weight: 250 | Averages: 18.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg, .508

After spending his freshman year as a top reserve, Harangody is now throwing his weight around as a potential Big East Player of the Year. The Irish have one of the best front-court units in the country and Harangody is the leader. He’s a tough rebounder with great low-post moves and the strength to overpower just about any defender.

Kevin Love, UCLA

Freshman | Height: 6’10” | Listed Weight: 271 | Averages: 16.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, .584

Arguably the most hyped freshman in the country, Love is one of the most skilled freshmen to come along in a long time. He leads UCLA in scoring and rebounding, and his outlet passes put the Bruin fast break right up there with any in the country. Love is powerful but he is also graceful and his skills really shine through. Still, he doesn’t mind getting down and dirty.

DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh

Freshman | Height: 6’7” | Listed Weight: 250 | Averages: 11.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, .542

Blair is one of the strongest, toughest, most physical players in the country. Once closer to 300 pounds, the slimmed-down version of this Pitt freshman is still able to throw down in the paint with the best of them. Blair is a powerhouse with plenty of pounds to push opponents away from the basket so he can hog the boards. And he’s only 18. Jeez.

Game Notes:

Auburn’s win over Mississippi was huge. For the Tigers to get a win that big even without star Korvotney Barber is a sign that maybe we’ve been underestimating their talent. Or maybe it was all just a fluke. For now I’ll side with the latter… Duke looked absolutely amazing on the fast break against Virginia Saturday. With the North Carolina’s recent struggles, the Blue Devils have established themselves as the best team in the ACC – at least until the two rivals clash… A lot of credit is due to Drake. The Bulldogs are quietly 16-1 and ranked. They’ve cracked what was a developing hierarchy in the Missouri Valley… Syracuse has taken back-to-back tough losses to Villanova and Georgetown, but I really like the youth and skill of the Orange. They lack leadership with Eric Devendorf out for the season, but next year they should come back and be a very strong team (likely sans Donte Greene). My bold prediction of the week: West Virginia will protect their home court against Georgetown on Saturday... Have a good one guys!

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