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Saturday, March 24, 2007

From Mike DeCoursey, the Sporting News "Dorsey Gets His Wish: Playing Oden"

From Mike DeCoursey, The Sporting News
Memphis' Dorsey gets his wish: playing Oden
March 23, 2007

This is what Joey Dorsey wanted. This is what Greg Oden needs. These two big men -- who define that term differently, but never retreat from it -- will not decide on their own whether Memphis or Ohio State will reach the NCAA Final Four, but they will have the greatest impact on the result.

That is the dream Dorsey dreams, anyway.

"I just see him as a great player. He's going to be a great player in the NBA … I see this as a big challenge to maybe make a name for myself," Dorsey said. "I stop Greg Oden, maybe hold him to nine points and probably five rebounds, and I have 15 points and 20 rebounds - that's great."

Oden is the 7-foot center for Ohio State who is long, quick and agile. Dorsey is the 6-9, 260-pound strongman who leaps like a gazelle but has biceps that could hold a tire swing. They are at the center of the Memphis-Ohio State game Saturday afternoon at the Alamodome, and it could not be a more delicious scenario for either.

The past two rounds of the tournament have been most frustrating for Oden because of the absence of someone to duel on the inside. Xavier and Tennessee, with all those 6-9 guys shooting 3-pointers, they were exactly the teams Oden did not want to see. They distorted the game for him. Oden is a brilliant defender, but for now that only is true when he can remain in proximity to the basket and harass anyone who enters the lane.

Except in the rare moments when Dorsey is out of the game and spindly 6-9 forward Robert Dozier serves as the lone Memphis big, the Tigers always will have someone on the floor Oden can guard. Dorsey plays the game with a relentless fire and rarely ventures from the lane. Reserves Kareem Cooper and Pierre Niles, the Tigers' frontcourt players, are big, bulky and aggressive. At last, a fair fight for Oden.

Because Memphis' lineup features a true post player, Oden can hang back in the lane and serve as a help defender against all the driving Memphis players trying to attack the rim. There will be many, and it is absolutely essential that he be circumspect in his challenges. He was reckless in the Tennessee game Thursday, when his playing time was limited to 18 minutes because of four personal fouls collected along the way. Only one of the four fouls came as the result of a defensive challenge. Two of them were for bumping cutters who attempted to cross the lane. The first of those was a cheap call; the second was a silly mistake for a player already carrying three fouls.

The Tigers cannot afford to alter their game plan to guide Oden toward foul trouble, but if it comes up, they'll take it. At the same time, they will need to be prepared for how to deal with his presence against their slice-and-dice driving scheme. They will not get the ball to the rim as easily as against other opponents. They might get it there, but it will be a chore. They might have to eat a few blocked shots, though, just to discover what is possible.

"The thing I'm going to have to worry about," Oden said of Dorsey, "is being able to help and watch out for him going up, because he's a high-flyer and he's very strong."

No matter whom he has faced in college -- UCLA's Ryan Hollins, Georgia Tech's Ra'Sean Dickey, Kentucky's Randolph Morris -- Dorsey never has contended with anyone quite like Oden. It shows in how he talks about the matchup. Most who have seen Oden in action would choose not to do anything to anger him, but Dorsey was blasting through his interview session Friday with a carefree smile.

Asked what he thought people would be saying about him after the game, Dorsey responded, "I think people are going to be saying he's a great player, underrated, he's a great rebounder.

"I'm enjoying this a lot, because it's going to be a big challenge, a big hurdle for us to beat a team that has a 25-game winning streak, and our winning streak is on the line. This is a dream come true right here."

Dorsey wanted this for himself so much that when Xavier was close to eliminating the Buckeyes from the tournament, Dorsey rooted for Ohio State to recover and win the game. He wanted to play Ohio State in the regional finals. He wanted to play Texas A&M to get there.

He did not excite his coach with this approach. "Coach said once you start cheering for a team, turn the TV off, because that's karma. It always comes back on you."

In other words, be careful what you wish for -- your wish might come true and stand 7-0, weigh 280 pounds and block shots like he's eating M&Ms from a dish.

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