Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Oden’s Debut

Greg Oden, hailed by virtually everyone as the best big man to enter college since Shaq, made his debut with Ohio State on Saturday. He’s been recovering from wrist surgery and wasn’t expected to play until January, but the doctors cleared him early. And if the first game is any indication, the rest of the college basketball world is in serious trouble. In 23 minutes he had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. And that was while shooting mostly with his left hand (the surgery was on his right wrist, his dominant one). This guy is scary talented. 7 foot tall, huge hops, huge wingspan, great footwork. He’s going to be dominant at both ends, but especially on defense.

In fact, after watching Ohio State play North Carolina last week, even though they lost, I’m ready to make a prediction that the Buckeyes will win the national championship this year. They nearly beat the Tar Heels on their home court and that was without Oden playing. This team has it all – great point guard play, great outside shooting, great coaching and now the most dominant big man in the country. This team will be in the final four and I’d put money on them winning it all.


  1. #1 Matthew
    December 3, 2006

    I couldn’t believe all of the talk I was hearing a few weeks ago about how he might not now be the #1 pick if he didn’t recover quickly. The kid has been a mortal lock to take the first pick in whichever draft he entered since he was a sophomore in high school!

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    December 3, 2006

    Absolutely. Players like this just don’t come around often. The two comparable players in terms of true centers entering college are Patrick Ewing and Shaq (and even Shaq wasn’t that well known or that polished coming out of high school); the most recent entered college 17 years ago. And in a league with very few dominant centers, it doesn’t matter when he enters the draft, or who has the #1 pick, he’s it. The last guy to be an absolute lock to be #1 before Lebron James was Tim Duncan, and the Spurs took him even though they already had an all star center (and it’s worked out pretty well for them, I think).

  3. #3 RPM
    December 3, 2006

    Apparently he’s also interested in getting a college education. A year or two ago there was talk that he would have gone to college even if the NBA didn’t put in the minimum age rule. I’ve even heard that he won’t go pro after his freshman year.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    December 3, 2006

    If Oden doesn’t turn pro after this year, that will be very, very surprising. It’s true that he’s actually a good student and a smart kid. He actually took part in math competitions in high school, which is very unusual for an elite athlete. Still, no matter how intelligent you are or how much you value education, it’s very difficult to turn down that kind of money. And frankly, I don’t blame them. You can still be smart and still pursue your education while playing in the NBA, or after you leave. One injury and you can’t go after the money you’re giving up. And in the case of someone like this, we’re talking about potentially a half a billion dollars or so in salary and endorsements; I’m not putting that off for a minute.

  5. #5 kehrsam
    December 3, 2006

    As a UNC Law grad, I have to disagree with Ed’s assessment, but I see how the point is debateable. That being said, Oden was a monster saturday. If he can do that against the highest level of competition, OSU will truly be a handful.

    For the top teams, college basketball comes down to scheduling, luck, and more luck. From the sweet 16 on, any team has a reasonable chance to defeat any other, so it seldom happens that the top two teams play for all the marbles, although it can happen. I’m rooting for a UNC-OSU final this year, and if we get it, I predict a Final for the ages.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    December 3, 2006

    Well, I wouldn’t exactly call UNC an underdog against anyone. Those are the two deepest, most talented teams in the country. Only Florida can match up in terms of talent at every position. If I had to put my money on one team at this point, it would be Ohio State. Carolina would be my second choice, Florida third.

  7. #7 kehrsam
    December 3, 2006

    I certainly see Oden as a defensive force to rank with Ewing. Shaq wasn’t really a defensive force his college year (although with the two monsters, they blocked a ton of shots), but was a load on the offensive end. I see Oden as more like Ewing, but if he can score like saturday against good defensive teams, all bets are off. I wish he had played against Carolina, because his defense versus Hanbrough’s scoring would have made a great comparison.

    Carolina’s D really hasn’t jelled yet (sort of a theme of recent teams early), so it is hard to project the recent game as a finals preview, even missing Oden. There are a lot of mid-level teams with the ability to take a big step forward as well. I’m as interested in college hoops as I’ve been in several years just to see how it all plays out.

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