Dorsey can't back smack, Oden's heading to Atlanta
Joey Dorsey talked and couldn't deliver. Greg Oden didn't, and did. That's a big reason why Ohio State is on its way to Atlanta, writes Gene Wojciechowski.
SAN ANTONIO -- First, the breaking news: Ohio State is going to the Final Four. The Buckeyes beat Memphis in a weird, disjointed game that had all the flow of a leaky spigot. Afterward, they cut down the Alamodome nets, hugged a lot ... blah, blah, blah.
Now the real story: Joey "Goliath" Dorsey.
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At this point a handful Memphis athletic department officials should have made like Secret Service agents and wrestled Dorsey to the ground. But, no, Dorsey happily kept chirping away and predicted a 20-rebound game because -- and wait for it again ... -- "I think it's going to be David versus Goliath."
Dorsey was misquoted, right? Taken out of context? Isn't that what Memphis coach John Calipari sort of said?
"Nah, nah, they said exactly what I said," Dorsey said later. "But I got the David and Goliath wrong this time."
Oh, boy. This wasn't Freddie Brown-throwing-the-ball-to-James Worthy/Chris Webber-calling-timeout dumb, but Dorsey definitely gets invited to the NCAA Tournament knucklehead wrap party. You knew what would happen next. Everyone, including Dorsey's teammates, knew what would happen next.
Oden made 7 of 8 field goals, scored 17 points, had nine rebounds, blocked one shot, altered who knows how many other attempts, and did all of this in 24 foul-plagued minutes, usually against poor Dorsey. Meanwhile, Dorsey finished with exactly zero points, more fouls than rebounds (four to three), two missed free throws (the rim had to be iced down after the clunkers), no blocks, no steals, no nothing. He left the game with 3:47 remaining and Memphis down by 10. He never returned.
Ohio State won, 92-76, and began snipping nets. Goliath returned to the Memphis locker room, sat on a folding chair and, to his credit, answered every single question asked about his galactically ill-timed remarks.
"Greg knew what I was saying," Dorsey said. "I was trying to get both of us pumped up for the game."
It worked -- for Oden. Actually, the Ohio State coaches were more outraged about the comments than Oden. They made sure to recite the Dorsey quotes to him and then waited for the eruption. Problem is, Oden doesn't erupt. You could tell him his jockstrap was on fire and his expression wouldn't change.
"I was just like, 'Dang, he just called me out,' " said Oden, who seemed amused by it all. "But I didn't try to think about it."
Dorsey couldn't even get a rise out of Oden on the David vs. Goliath bit.
"Kind of made me laugh," said Oden.Dorsey's teammates didn't think it was so funny. Here they were, hadn't lost a game since Dec. 20, 2006, trying to become America's basketball sweetheart, the little Conference USA team that could and, hello, Dorsey decides to light a couple of verbal cherry bombs?Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesGreg Oden made his point to Joey Dorsey on the court, not in the media.
"We were a quiet, under-the-radar team, you know, the underdog team," said Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, who was seated so close to Dorsey he could have nudged him with his shoe. "After that, it made us look like the team who's opposite that ... It was bad timing and it wasn't the right thing to say."
Oden said he didn't pay much attention to the pregame trash-talking, but isn't it interesting that Ohio State's first points of the game came on an Oden basket over, ta-da, Dorsey? Or that he only missed one shot? And that he actually tried to literally break the basket on several dunks (the baskets survived, Dorsey didn't).
The only negative -- again -- is that Oden couldn't stay out of foul trouble. He only played for those 24 minutes. Against Tennessee in the regional semi, it was only 18 minutes, a season low. If the Buckeyes expect to beat the winner of Sunday's game between North Carolina and Georgetown, Oden needs to spend more time on the court than OSU's mascot, Brutus.
Dorsey and Oden chatted a little bit during and after the game. They even exchanged a quick postgame man hug. Weird, though. Dorsey said Oden turned to him after that first score and said, "C'mon, let's give them a good show." But when I asked Oden about it in the Ohio State locker room, he looked at me as if I'd just said, "Could you please sing the National Anthem in Mandarin Chinese?"
Did he and Dorsey have that conversation? "No," Oden said.
Did they talk much at all? "No," Oden said.
Someone is suffering from memory loss, but I guess it doesn't matter. Ohio State and Oden move forward, Memphis and Dorsey return to flying below the radar. But before they left, the always-helpful Dorsey, while calling Oden a "great player," said that the freshman "needs to work on his jump hooks and everything." That might be true, but it sounded odd coming from the human O-fer. Meanwhile, Douglas-Roberts offered a more realistic appraisal.
"Even when he's not blocking shots, and even when he's not rebounding, you still feel his presence," Douglas-Roberts said.
If the NBA Lottery ping-pong balls were dropped today -- and Oden declared himself eligible for the draft (he said he hasn't decided) -- the league-worst Memphis Grizzlies would have the best chance at the OSU center. I asked Douglas-Roberts what he would tell Grizzlies' management if faced with the choice between Oden or, say, Texas' Kevin Durant.
"You can't pass him up," Douglas-Roberts said. "You can't pass him up. Another Greg Oden won't come around in another 20-something years. You can't pass him up. You can't. Until you play against him [you don't know] how good he actually is."
Don't tell us. Tell Dorsey.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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