Friday, March 30, 2007

Guest Bias: Hibbert Essay

For a long time now, I've wanted to have a guest post on this blog, and I'm pleased to announce I finally found a guest blogger. In the hopes that we have more than one of these (yes, you too can volunteer), I'm titling the feature "Guest Bias."

Ted of A Price Above Bip Roberts' fame ( go here ) has been blogging strong all week long about Georgetown. I suggested he tell us more about Roy Hibbert. Here we have a 7'2" center from Georgetown who's still rather unknown to many college basketball fans! Surprising, especially in light of the big man legacy of the Hoyas. Ted fills us in below. Thanks Ted!

You gotta figure - well, if you went to Georgetown at least, like I did - that Thad Matta can't be too happy about this draw. I mean, if he had gotten UNC, he'd have a little reason to be scared - after all, UNC beat OSU this season already - but he would know what every hoops head in America also knows: Oden didn't play that game. With all apologies to the dagger-dropping of Ron Lewis and the oft-undiscussed skills of Mike Conley Jr, the true "man in the middle," literally and figuratively, for these Final Four Buckeyes is Oden.

And on Saturday, the biggest advantage that Matta and crew have every game is, essentially, neutralized before the opening tip: because in all likelihood, the guy standing across from Oden before "the ball is tipped" (apologies to Luther Vandross) is taller, and in some respects maybe better, than the frosh sensation.

Greg Oden, meet Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert, a 7-2 center for Georgetown who was hot for college basketball writers when the season began - we heard stories about how he always wanted to go to GU, how he was the next great center in a lineage that includes Ewing, Mourning, and Mutombo but seemed to fade a bit with Boumtje-Boumtje and Freeman, and how him vs. Aaron Gray would decide the Big East. Over time, though, Hibbert's own classmate Jeff Green came to steal the headlines, and in the process, the Big East Player of the Year Award.

But, as predicted, it was still Hibbert who decided the Big East, in the sense of his 18 point, 11 rebound performance in an absolute thumping of Pittsburgh in the Conference Tournament Finals (I was there, about 45 rows up, among all Pitt fans; they didn't like me). Gray that same game? 1 of 13 from the field, 3 points. I had to drive back to work at 3am in the rain, with a daylight savings time change screwing me, and you know what? It was still worth it.

Hibbert's Big East title game performance is just the latest in a string of fine, quality outings by the "Big Fella" (apologies to Gus Johnson there). He first made a name for himself - Irony Alert - last year in the second round against a different Ohio State team, when he propelled the Hoyas into a battle with Florida. We'd ultimately lose that game in part because Hibbert (and Green) didn't have the endurance to rock out with Horford and Noah for 40 minutes. Now, they seemingly do.

See, Hibbert started slow this year - 11 points and 2 rebounds in 30 minutes when we lost to Pitt in January; 10 points and 5 rebounds against a Seton Hall team he should have owned later that month - but then, he picked it up. And when he did, we (in the collective sense) did as well. 20 points and 11 boards against Louisville, in a game we really needed at the time; 23 and 11 in the very next game, vs. ranked Marquette; and 20 and 6 when we pasted West Virginia in the one after that. We needed all those, and we got them in large part because of Roy.

Hibbert's got a little problem with foul trouble, sure - it almost cost us in the Big East Semis against Notre Dame, a game that Green basically threw on his back as it progressed - but check this: since Pittsburgh in the conference finals, the man in the middle in blue and gray hasn't gone for less than a double-double. Against BC? 17 and 12, willing us back. Against UNC and "Crazy T?" 13 and 11, despite foul trouble.

I'll be the first to admit, Hibbert makes mistakes - i.e. fouling - and he's not the most mobile man on the court. Hansborough and now Oden are both capable of moving around him, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be able to, or victory will be secure for them. Also consider: in the two losses of Ohio State's that Oden actually took the court in (Wisconsin and Florida), he was - yes, yes, I know, he was less than 100 percent - harassed by an aggressive, physical inside game: Brian Butch on Wisconsin, and Horford/Noah/et al on Florida. Georgetown can do that too, with Ewing, Summers, Macklin, Green, and the Biggest of the Big, Mr. Hibbert.

So take a good look before the ref heaves the rock skyward, Mr. Oden (can I really call you Mr? Alright, granted, you look 41). You haven't seen anything like this one yet.

Check Ted's site for more Hoya perspective during the Final Four.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah. That turned out just okay for the Hoya nation, now didn't it?

    Good stuff nonetheless.