By John Helsley
MILWAUKEE – Here in the nation’s Dairyland, those analyzing tonight’s Midwest Regional matchup between OSU and Georgia Tech are focused on one aspect: size.
Or the Cowboys’ lack of it.
Is it key? Yes… and no.
The Cowboys have faced long and athletic frontlines before — and slayed the giants.
Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris and Co. with Kansas. Luis Colon and all his lanky legions at Kansas State. Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and Anthony Jones and Josh Lomers. And others.
Are those combinations as talented as Tech’s duo of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal? Potentially, no, with both projected as first-round NBA draft picks.
But the boys from the Big 12 are far more accomplished than the Yellow Jackets’ pair, who hardly dominated as Tech went just 7-9 in a down ACC. Favors and Lawal haven’t consistently put their potential in place.
“We’re not the biggest team in the world,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “But our guys have figured out how to compete. We’ve played against some big teams. Kansas was big and Texas was big and Baylor’s big. You go down the line, there’s some big teams in the Big 12.
“And our guys, at times, they’ve figured it out. And at times we haven’t. But we understand going into these situations that we’ve got to be overachievers, that we’re going to have to make up for some lack of height and some different things at some point. And we understand that.”
Understand this: Georgia Tech faces matchup issues as well, with the pressure on to chase OSU’s shooters on the perimeter. And one of those big men will have to join in the chase.
That’s a mismatch, too, for a Tech team that has at times struggled to defend the 3-point line against a team with James Anderson, Obi Muonelo and Keiton Page that has gunned down better big teams already.
“Obviously, that’s crucial,” said Jackets coach Paul Hewitt. “Because they’re a great 3-point shooting team, one of the better 3-point shooting teams we’ve seen all year. When we’ve struggled, we’ve really allowed people to get going from 3.”
This is a far better matchup than Sunday’s possible showdown with Ohio State, which also starts four guards, but has big athletic guards who will contest shots and pressure the Cowboys to work hard with screens and cuts to create open shots.
Tonight, as it’s been much of the year, it’s not about any OSU weakness inside, but one of the Cowboys’ strengths: the 3-point shot.
If they’re on, they’re through to Round 2.
Prediction: Cowboys 75, Yellow Jackets 67