Show me a team that's beaten everyone they should and I'll show you a team that's playing for a National Championship.
Sure, Ohio State (35-3) is playing Florida (34-5) on the good fortunes of a "non-call" of a possible intentional foul on 7-1 Greg Oden in the second round. But when did luck stop being part of the equation?
That said, Monday evening at 9 pm eastern, the two best teams will play for the title. Any talk of luck, good fortune or anything else is nothing short of loser's talk. It's the No. 1-team in the country Ohio State, a team that has lost just three times this season on the road to teams that were one or two seeds in the NCAA Tournament versus the No. 1-overall seed in the NCAA - the defending National Champions. Florida certainly had a few bumps in the road, but over the last three or four weeks, the Gators have been back on track playing like the same motivated team that won this tournament last season.
Even disregarding the BCS Championship storyline, Florida and Ohio State meeting Jan. 8 in Glendale, Az. for the football National Title, this was the game a majority of the country wanted to see. Short of seeing Florida against North Carolina in the championship, this may have been the best CBS could do for Monday's title game.
For Ohio State to get to this game, the Buckeyes had to get through John Thompson III's Georgetown Hoyas. Virtually no one in the national media prognosticated this to happen.
But it did.
Here are my thoughts on the how and why Ohio State made it happen.
* Last season, Ohio State became a jump-shooting team against Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The size and length of the Hoya defenders made it tough for the Buckeye shooters to get a good shot or pass over top the active zone. Ohio State's answer this year? Penetration. Despite going just 4-of-14 from three-point range, Ohio State controlled the game by attacking the rim with its quickness. Mike Conley set the tone in the first half with 11 points - four slicing baskets and a three-point goal. Georgetown was weak against penetration all year and Ohio State recognized this early on.
* I thought minus a few quick triggers, the Ohio State shot selection was nearly perfect on Saturday. Senior Ron Lewis, who had been averaging just shy of 19 points per game since the regular season finale against Michigan, certainly didn't have his best night shooting the ball (1-of-8) but neither he nor fellow senior Ivan Harris forced shots. This allowed Ohio State to stay within the offense and continue the game plan.
* The second half play of Oden was a big lift for Ohio State. Playing just three minutes in the first half, Oden returned to the floor with a monster finish. Ohio State actually missed several opportunities to hit Oden in the low post when he had good position. Further, the Buckeyes had the ball out top and Oden was flashing down the middle after peeling from a screen a few other times and they missed him. However, despite several missed opportunities, Oden did touch the ball enough to make his presence felt and put pressure on Georgetown - who was having foul problems of their own with 7-2 Roy Hibbert.
* Speaking of Hibbert, Ohio State did everything it needed to do to get the big man in trouble. Just 18 seconds into the game, Hibbert had picked up a foul trying to guard Oden on a post entry. Although Oden totaled two fouls within five minutes, Hibbert later picked up a second fould thanks to dribble penetration by Lewis. After the initial foul against Oden, Hibbert's remaining fouls were picked up either trying to help off on penetration, or in one case, he was caught holding on a horizontal screen. Georgetown was starting to pick up some momentum offensively when Hibbert was on the floor and Oden was not for a three-minute stretch in the second half. However, Hibbert's third and fourth fouls forced the hand of Thompson and Georgetown lost that momentum quickly.
* It was another disappointing performance for freshman guard Daequan Cook. Cook was 0-of-4 from the field with one missed three and three off-balanced mid-range shots. It's really all about confidence for Cook. He's pressing to become a larger part of the equation, and it's caused him to get away from being the "instant offense" he was earlier in the season.
DEFENSIVELY / REBOUNDING
* The single most important factor in the game, bar none, was freshman David Lighty. Mike Conley may have been the "Most Valuable Player" by the networks, but Lighty was the unsung hero - again. All-American forward Jeff Green, who people said all week long was unstoppable, was totally shadowed everywhere he went by Lighty. If Green posted up, Lighty didn't give him position or an entry angle. If Green screened, Lighty hedged and quickly recovered. If Green received a perimeter pass, Lighty was in perfect defensive stance with a hand in his face. Everywhere Green went - Lighty went. The numbers support that, too. Green had just five field goal attempts all day long - two of which were when Lighty wasn't in the game. A third attempt was when a loose ball was scooped up by Green for an easy layup.
* Lighty wasn't just a defensive force, either. Despite being 6-5 and giving up four inches to Green and nearly nine inches to Hibbert, he was putting on a clinic how to rebound. Don't be fooled by his only officially grabbing three boards - his box-out technique kept Green and Hibbert away from many other offensive rebound attempts that were ultimately volleyed around and into the hands of Ohio State defenders.
* In the rebounding department, Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter combined for seven rebounds. Ohio State outrebounded the taller Georgetown 37-30 despite playing a small lineup for most of the game. The most shocking stat was Ohio State's 16 offensive rebounds to just nine for the Hoyas. Terwilliger and Hunter also played tough defensively. Minus one small spurt early in the second half, Georgetown got very few backdoor layups against Ohio State and the variety of zone defenses played by the Buckeyes. Matta's decision to play Hunter back in the middle of the paint when Hibbert touched the ball at the top of the key (and Oden was out of the game) proved to also be a great decision. Hibbert has a history of flashing to the middle and then Georgetown would usually run a screen to get a layup off that. However, Hunter's playing back eliminated that possibility.
* A big key for Ohio State was the pressure. Knowing Georgetown was only in the 15 percentile of college basketball in protecting the ball, Ohio State went after the Hoyas with a variety of halfcourt traps. The extended defense caused just 14 turnovers by Georgetown, but those turnovers were constantly being turned into transition points by Conley and Jamar Butler.
* I thought Terwilliger and Harris played their best games of the season. Terwilliger because he was actively looking to rebound instead of tipping the ball as well as his noted defense, and Harris because he was playing as intense as he's ever been. Did anyone realize Harris had 9 points and seven rebounds? He was working as hard as I've seen him in four years at Ohio State.
The bottom line is that Ohio State won the game with defense. If people haven't picked up on it by now, defense does win championships. Of course, UCLA can vouch for the fact you also need scoring and inside presence, but defense will put you in a position to go very far.
All season long I've said that I thought Thad Matta has proven to be an excellent coach, motivator and recruiter. I truly think he's a rising star in the coaching industry. That said, I felt his relative inexperience on the big stage meant there were still a number of things he would learn by trial and error when it came to game day.
Saturday, Matta and his coaching staff were ready.
It was, in my opinion, the absolute best coaching job of the season by a staff that led its team to an overly impresive 35-3 season thus far along with an outright Big Ten Championship. In my opinion, Matta flat out got the best of the legend's son. Matta and his staff exploited every single weakness Georgetown had and when circumstances became difficult for Ohio State or when Thompson III made a change, Matta countered and switched things up. Only once or twice all game did Georgetown find any sort of rhythm whatsoever - and those times were very short-lived.
You don't win 35 games on luck. You also don't go 31-0 against everyone not a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament without some pretty good coaching. That's exactly what Ohio State did and it's the only team that can remotely lay claim to such an achievement.
Now that it's down to one more game, the 26-point beating Ohio State suffered to Florida back in December might have been the best thing for the Buckeyes. Anyone that has followed Ohio State will know the Gators are in for a different game than the one in Gainesville over three and a half months ago.
Later today, I'll have 10 reasons why Ohio State will win the game. I'll also have 10 reasons why they won't.