Last night, the Buckeyes blew past Memphis to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1999:
SAN ANTONIO, March 24 ? Back when Mike Conley Jr. and Greg Oden were precocious high school teammates dominating the A.A.U. circuit, they were advertised as the ultimate package deal.
Coaches in gyms from Hackensack, N.J., to Las Vegas whispered to each other that Conley, a quick, elusive point guard; and Oden, a dominant center, could walk onto a college campus as freshmen and lead a team to the Final Four.
But in a sport where summer hype rarely translates to March reality, Oden and Conley justified their billing on Saturday. Behind Conley?s savvy and Oden?s daunting presence, top-seeded Ohio State defeated second-seeded Memphis, 92-76, in the South Regional final to advance to its first Final Four since 1999.
?I think they?ve had a tremendous impact, probably unlike anybody?s ever had,? Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said.
This victory may serve as a sign of just how big an impact freshmen can have in this new era of college basketball, in which players are essentially forced to attend college for at least a year before becoming eligible for the N.B.A. draft.
Oden, a 7-footer from Indianapolis, is the poster child for the new rule, and he put forth his most dominating performance so far in this N.C.A.A. tournament on Saturday. He again overcame his recent nemesis, foul trouble, to score 17 points while shooting 7 of 8 from the field.
He turned the game?s momentum with a little less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half when he drew an intentional foul and converted a 3-point play. The foul on Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts was his fourth of the game. It was part of a 5-point possession for Ohio State that gave the Buckeyes a 2-point lead. Ohio State never trailed from that point on, going on a 19-6 run.
?It changed the whole complexion of the game,? said Memphis Coach John Calipari, who added that he did not have a good view of the call. ?It put fire in them and took the wind out of our sails.?