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Oden will win title before NBA

When Greg Oden first arrived on Ohio State's campus this fall, it was clear from the start that the 7-foot center would not be on campus for long.

Oden probably would have been the first pick in the 2006 NBA Draft had he been eligible for selection, and he most likely will be the No. 1 pick if he chooses to leave school at the end of this season.

Luckily for the No. 1 Buckeyes, Oden won't be leaving before he brings a championship to Columbus.

Ohio State has all the pieces necessary to win the title this year, and when the final buzzer sounds at this year's Final Four in Atlanta, the Buckeyes will be cutting the down the nets.

Oden has been all that was advertised and perhaps even more this season for Ohio State, which has not lost in nearly two months. Although the post player is not a dominant scorer-he averages a modest 15.3 points per game-his ability to change a game with his defense is unmatched in college basketball.

Oden is averaging 3.5 blocks per game, a mark that is the nation's sixth best. To add to it, Oden has been doing most of his damage without 100 percent use of his right hand, which continues to improve after a preseason wrist injury.

The center is not the only freshman that contributes to the Buckeyes, as guards Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook have been integral to Ohio State's second straight regular-season Big Ten championship. Conley Jr. has been steady at the helm of the Buckeyes' offense, dishing out a conference-best 6.4 assists per game. The freshman also has an impressive 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio and averages 2.3 steals per contest-both conference bests.

Cook has been a spark all season off the bench for the Buckeyes. The freshman averages 21.3 minutes per game as the first substitute in for Ohio State. His averages of 11.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game are both second-best on the team, despite the fact that Cook is sixth on the team in minutes played.

Individual statistics notwithstanding, the Buckeyes have been the nation's most consistent team all season. The team's three losses were all on the road to top-10 teams-a 98-89 defeat to then-No. 6 North Carolina Nov. 29, an 86-60 setback to then-No. 4 Florida Dec. 23 and most recently a 72-69 defeat at the hands of then-No. 1 Wisconsin Jan. 9.

And while Ohio State hasn't exactly been dominating in its march through the Big Ten, it has found a way to win in all but one game. Some may see this as a weakness, as the Buckeyes have struggled at times during the season, especially against conference cellar dwellers Northwestern and Penn State. But Ohio State's ability to win close games is actually a strength, as it has enabled the team to maintain its No. 1 ranking and will prove to be crucial in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Although Florida and UCLA have the NCAA Tournament experience and North Carolina and Kansas have more athletes on their roster than entire conferences, Ohio State has poise, talent and a 7-foot big man named Greg Oden that wants an NCAA Championship before he jumps to the NBA in June.


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