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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tigers' Dorsey Starts Jabbing Oden One Day Early

Tigers' inside muscle starts jabbing Oden one day early

Joey Dorsey has been rooting for Ohio State so he would have a chance to do battle with heralded freshman center Greg Oden. He has his wish.

By Scott Cacciola
March 24, 2007

SAN ANTONIO -- Alongside his teammates in a locker room at the New Orleans Arena last week, Joey Dorsey watched the final moments of Ohio State's second-round victory over Xavier. Dorsey began to cheer for the Buckeyes. His teammates looked at him as if he were crazy. His coach told him to turn off the television.

"It's bad karma," Dorsey recalled Memphis coach John Calipari telling him. "It always comes back on you."

Dorsey hardly seemed concerned at the time, and he hardly seemed concerned Friday afternoon at the Alamodome, where he reiterated why he had hoped top-seeded Ohio State would advance to this afternoon's South Regional final of the NCAA Tournament. More than wanting the mere opportunity to jostle in the post with Greg Oden, Ohio State's hulking man-child of a freshman center, Dorsey said he yearned for the chance to prove himself to his public.

"I respect Greg Oden a lot, he's a great player," Dorsey said. "He might be as good as Joey Dorsey."

This is springtime in San Antonio, and no player remaining in the Elite Eight has blossomed as much as Dorsey, a junior forward who, for much of the regular season, refused to speak with reporters. He said he was shy. On Friday, in addition to referring to himself in the third person, Dorsey pledged to collect 15 points and 20 rebounds against the top-seeded Buckeyes while limiting Oden to less -- substantially less.

"Hold him to nine points and probably five rebounds," Dorsey said.

Call him brash. Call him audacious. Call him anything but shy.

"I'm an underrated big man," Dorsey said, "and he's a lot overrated as a big man."

The media spotlight has followed Oden wherever he has roamed this week, the inevitable product of being a future NBA lottery pick. He has consistently brushed aside questions about his plans once the season ends, but when he was asked what he would buy if were to suddenly come into a pile of money, Oden paused.

"A Best Buy," he said.

Not the entire corporation, he clarified. Just one store.

Dorsey, for all his immense potential and physical gifts, lacks Oden's sort of star status, which makes his posturing all the more understandable. Play well, and Dorsey makes a big name for himself. At times, he sounded as if he were equating his one-on-one matchup in the post with Ali-Frazier, though he did say that he thinks Nevada's Nick Fazekas is a better player than Oden. Dorsey was asked what people would be saying about him after the game.

"Everyone, I think, is going to say he's a great player, he's very underrated, and he's a great rebounder," Dorsey said.

As for Oden, much attention has been paid to his foul-plagued struggles in the tournament. He fouled out against Xavier. And in Ohio State's dramatic 85-84 win over Tennessee in the Sweet 16, he often could be spotted shuffling his 7-foot frame between the court and the bench after picking up two fouls, then three, then four. He finished with nine points, four blocks and three rebounds in 18 lackluster minutes.

Like many of the Memphis players, Oden said he felt the NCAA Tournament was being more tightly officiated than his team's regular-season games. He said he hoped that would not be the case today.

"There's going to be a lot of fouls called or not a lot of fouls called," Oden said. "It can be a soft game dictated by the refs or a hard game dictated by us."

Dorsey said he had his own concerns that stemmed from Memphis' victory over Texas A&M on Thursday.

"That game was crazy," he said. "I think the guys, they fell asleep in the paint. They got in the paint and they stayed in there for about eight seconds. One time I complained to the refs, 'Can I get a 3-second call?' And he said, 'No.'"

Joey Uncensored created the buzz of the day at the Alamodome, where he spoke of a close friendship with Grizzlies rookie Rudy Gay that started when both were high school players in Baltimore ("Rudy was better, but we always won"), his chiseled physique ("My mom showed me my baby pictures, and I had muscles when I was a baby"), and his relationship with Calipari.

"Coach is very intense," Dorsey said. "He gets in your butt, and you don't want to be in his doghouse."

Of course, whether Dorsey winds up back there probably will depend more on what he does than what he says.

-- Scott Cacciola: 529-2773

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