Nollin: Free Pizza, Bench Seats, Fresh Eyes

While media memebers scrambled around to make their deadlines, the Badger Yearbook's John Nollin decided to begin his sports writing career on the biggest man at the tournament. The end result - an entirely different outlook.

Chicago (I-94 north) - I guess it may seem weird for a school yearbook writer to be writing a critical article about Wisconsin's opposition. Then again, I may not be a school yearbook writer. I didn't do anything illegal, and even though the weekend may have begun with free food and great seats to an amazing tournament, I did use the opportunity to do something beneficial with my newfound status.

While media was scurrying about the United Center, photographers uploading pictures, writers downloading post-game press conferences and anchors practicing their linguistics, I was enjoying my courtside seats, wireless internet, free food, and becoming increasingly intrigued by the number one team in the nation. Instead of devoting myself to putting on a few pounds and taking a few good photos, I decided to try and dig up some dirt around the Big Ten.

The main victim of my snooping was the Buckeyes' Greg Oden. Now you might say to yourself, how can you badmouth the best player in the Big Ten? He's young, talented and has a good head on his shoulders. Well for starters, he isn't the best player in the conference and secondly, the events of this weekend can prove how false the previous statement can be.

Greg Oden is young. OK, hold on, back this '91 Dodge Caravan up. I may not be driving a Beemer from Chicago back to Madison, but since when has youth in college been so valuable. It's not like he's got more spring in his step, muscle on his body, or basketball knowledge. In fact it's the complete opposite. We know nobody's thinking he's going to stick around for four years and start an OSU dynasty to the likes of the great teams at UCLA. To top it all off, let's be honest with ourselves, Greg Oden is not 19 years old. If Oden is 19 years old then I might as well be considered three. I suggest all Division I men's basketball teams hire a private investigator to dig some skeletons out of this 40-year-old's closet.

Greg Oden is talented. Really? If I was seven feet tall, weighed 280 pounds and had a wing span of nine feet, I'd probably be good at something too. But seriously, we call him the best player in the Big Ten, maybe the best player in Division I, but what would we call him if he wasn't this talented, Courtney Sims? The question isn't whether he's proven his talent, because he has. In three games he's scored 51 points and set a Big Ten Tourney record vs. Purdue when he racked in 19 rebounds. What Oden hasn't done is proven his dominance. He has never faced a big-name big man, and has never, during crunch time, called for the ball three-straight possessions and put an opposing team away.

Greg Oden has a good head on his shoulders. LOL - can you tell in not a sportswriter.

Let's look past media's b.s. about how Oden is a soft -spoken gentle giant. The first time I spoke with Oden, I felt like I was talking to Dikembe Mutombo, only Oden was a liar and a little too cliché for my liking.

"Greg, can you really tell me what's on your mind when everyone around you is wondering whether you'll stay at Ohio or move right to the NBA at the conclusion of this season," someone asked.

"I've never even thought about that before in my life," Oden replied. "I just think about going out and winning the next game, never thinking about anything further in the future than that."

Let's dive into this quote. "I've never even thought about that before in my life," LIAR! Moving on, "I just think about going out and winning the next game, never thinking about anything further in the future than that." As much as I'd like to believe a player when they give this answer to some media guru who knows what answer is coming, we know it is 100 percent false.

You may ask yourself what a yearbook person does in between games while the rest of the media works at warp speeds to get their work done. Well the answer is quite simple, we snoop. Yeah, I walked around and got my nose in anywhere I could. As untrue and unquotable as Greg Oden is with media, he is the complete opposite when the focus isn't on him.

While perusing the halls after the championship game, I ran into Oden and some of his coaches, all of whom were blocking his path and insisting that he return to the locker room for a meeting with the coaching staff. If pushing wasn't a clear indication of Oden's intentions, he verbalized them perfectly.

"I don't care what coach wants. Get out of my way. I'm going to see my f'ing grandma." When players finally convinced him to turn around Oden felt good venting to two basketball managers with, "F'ing coaches, they aren't really even coaches." Did this really happen you might ask? Yes, so I, a simple yearbook writer, wouldn't consider him a gentle giant.

Since when did Oden get so cocky? I don't remember it from any of his other games I've seen. This tournament, however, his cockiness gradually escalated, ending with his altercation with Stiemsma towards the of the championship game. Yeah, the two got tied up. Yeah, Stiemsma may be a little hot headed. Yeah, your up 17 and can call yourself victor of Badger vs. Buckeye World War III. However, last time I checked, it may be punishable by law to blow kisses and taunt an opponent who missed half of last season due to depression. You stay classy Greg Oden.

So, while the media is in an Oden frenzy, praising his youth, talent and maturity, Greg is in his dream world where he's never thought of his future, struggles to speak coherent English, feels the need to put Stiemsma back in the doctor's office and has little respect for his coaches. I sit here and am critical of him. I may be popping my ‘media cherry' right now, but isn't that what the media is for? Oden's youth is worthless. He has so much to learn and probably won't be learning it in Columbus. His talent is there, but how far can he take it, and how will he respond when he runs into the athleticism of Virginia, Tennessee, or Memphis?

It's time that we all - media, students, fans and opponents alike - look at some things with fresh eyes. When you take a step back, stop looking for a movie-style story with a movie-style ending and you may find something a little more real. I'm not saying Greg Oden is a bad guy. After all he is young, talented, and has a decent head on his shoulders. I'm just not quite ready to crown him yet.

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