Published Sat, Mar 17, 2012 6:57 pm Dateline
Nine times reporters mentioned South Florida’s defensive intensity, length, and pace during Saturday’s press proceedings. Only once was the “D” word used regarding Ohio. Walter Offutt sought to subtly set the record straight.
“We can play slow as well. We can grind it out,” Offutt assured reporters after a string of questions about South Florida’s defense.
Let’s first give South Florida their due credit. These guys have been stalwarts. They’re the British navy of half-court basketball. These guys treat opponents’ three pointers like Halls treats colds. Their defense every game day is Cinco de Mayo and everything inside the half court line is the city of Puebla. They average allowing only 24.2 points to teams in the first half. So much for getting out and running.
Speaking of not running, the Bulls are slower than the US Postal Service on Saturday. It’s like watching Senate meetings at the library eating Necco Wafers. Only two other teams in college basketball averaged fewer possessions per game than the Bulls. Each possession is grueling. We’re talking Guinness-style records for number of people simultaneously yawning for 35 seemingly elongated seconds.
Without a doubt, they are long. They’re as athletic as they come. If they get the opportunity to pick up the pace and fly to the basket they might turn TBS’ broadcast into 3-D. They’re so long they’ll subconsciously deflect souvenir balls being slung into the stands. With its athleticism, if South Florida wants to play slow, it pretty much will.
Yet, Offutt had not completed his thought on the matter. There was something vital that still needed to be dictated.
“We showed that we can grind it out,” he reminded the Saturday afternoon pressroom.
And Ohio has. How foolish of us to forget. How slow of heart. How absent of mind. Was this not the very calling card of the Ohio Bobcats early in the MAC season? In fact, Ohio has been a gathering of renaissance men when it has come to styles of play this year.
They were chameleons. Their style could change faster than a John Kerry campaign platform. They changed the way they won games like the USDA changes the food pyramid (which somehow got away from ancient Egyptian architecture in favor of the more modern dinner plate model). But that’s just the thing, no matter what style Ohio adopted they kept winning.
Ask Western Michigan. They are still icing their knees from the half-court battle in the trenches of the Convo - a 56-51 Ohio win. Ask Ball State. They’re still waking up from the 11 a.m. defensive beat down Ohio laid on them in a 59-55 home win. Heck, even ask Michigan. Until they tip off their 2012 season next fall, they will not have scored a point since there were over four minutes left in Friday nights second round game against the Bobcats.
So what if South Florida dictates the pace of Sunday night’s game in Nashville? If Ohio can adapt just one more time, the Bobcats will dictate the outcome.