Ed O'Bannon, UCLA vs. Sean May, North Carolina- Who'd win One on One?

Pat MixonSenior Analyst IMarch 16, 2010

Al Bello/Getty Images


Winner’s Outs Month of March Madness continues with another Battle of College Legends.  We pit the UCLA Bruins’ Ed O’Bannon versus North Carolina’s Sean May.  Not only is this another Battle of the MOPs (Most Outstanding Players), but it is only fitting that right after the Tourney Pairings for 2010, we pit players from two schools who own long-standing traditions of NCAA success but failed to the make the big dance this year.  This is our tribute UCLA and UNC.  We’ll miss them this year.  But enough sentimentality, back to our Legend Battles.

Let's settle this once and for all.  Please remember, this is not a team matchup but one on one, in the ultimate legend fantasy basketball game.  

Scouting Report

Our Scouting Report on both players will address how they would matchup in a one on one game.  Let's start with Ed O’Bannon.

Like Danny Manning before him, Ed O’Bannon carried his UCLA Burins on his back to the NCAA Championship in 1995.  O’Bannon became the MOP of the Final Four and a lotto pick.  However, like so many great MOPs, his NBA career never matched his college success.  But, for our game of one on one, the college version of O’Bannon is exactly what we want. 

The first thing that made O’Bannon such a weapon was he was left-handed.  That alone made his game different.  Like Manning, O’Bannon was so versatile.  He could work inside, shoot mid-range, and even more so than Manning, O’Bannon could hit from distance.  He proved to be such a difficult matchup because of his quickness combined with height.  He would blow past big guys and take smaller players into the paint.  Also, O’Bannon liked to get up and down the court and was a strong finisher.  His UCLA team that championship year did have an outstanding point guard in Tyus Edney, who was gifted in getting O’Bannon the ball where and when he wanted it.  Facing up, O’Bannon could dribble well with both hands but had a tendency to work left more often than not.  It didn’t matter, his quickness and athleticism allowed him to get to the rim easily. And, once there, he could finish thanks to solid hops. 

Defensively, O’Bannon could matchup with multiple positions.  He could cover quicker small forwards and could handle post players.  His quickness allowed him to be a strong defender and his leaping ability changed many shots.  The only knock on O’Bannon at all was his build and he had a tendency to get out-muscled by the biggest of players in the paint.  But O’Bannon was a rebound hound, using speed over bulk to track down and work the boards.  

Sean May lead UNC to the title in 2005 and captured the tourney’s MOP award.  While he was part of a strong Carolina core, May was the team’s leader, both on and off.  2005 was really a coming out party for May, as he had worked hard in the summer and came into that year in his best shape of his college career.  This wasn’t always the case even thought May was destined to be an athlete from birth, the product of a basketball champion dad, Scott.  Although his dad was a star at Indiana, Sean went to Carolina, more than likely a move to blaze his own path.  He did, after overcoming weight issues early in his college career.  Part of May’s issues were that his blessings were his curses.  He was so talented he tended to not put in all the work required, because his best still got it done.  But by the time May got to college, he wouldn’t be a champion on talent alone.  His hard work paid off in 2005.

May was a force in the paint.  His success wasn’t his size, or weight, but his footspeed.  Surprisingly enough, he was light on his feet and had great footwork.  His post game was well refined, going both left or right.  And, May had touch within 15 feet.  He wasn’t a massive leaper but he did finish with authority.  His dribbling ability was marginal but May made his living in the paint and rarely faced up, except for some mid-range jumpers, instead of turning and pounding the ball inside.

Defensively, May could hold his own in the paint against any post players.  He could bang, he could use his footspeed to stay with more finesse post players, and he could throw his weight around down low.  Being from UNC, May was fundamental and while not a great leaper, always played strong positional defense.  May did struggle on the perimeter due to his size and weight but he could keep up with most players his size or larger.  

The Matchup

O’Bannon is going to use his face up game on May.  He’ll take May off the dribble, more than likely left.  May will know O’Bannon’s tendency to go that way, but it won’t matter.  May had very good footspeed and was actually light on his feet (if I can even use that term light with May?  I had difficulty writing that sentence!) but May would really struggle covering O’Bannon outside.  If O’Bannon didn’t simply blow by May, then O’Bannon would get into the paint and go to his finesse game.  He’d spin, move side to side, and move around on May.  O’Bannon will score inside on May in countless ways.  He’ll even leap over May and the UNC player will not contest his shot.  May will, however, throw his weight around and if O’Bannon isn’t decisive in his post moves, May will push him out of the paint.  

Because O’Bannon’s dribbling ability and face up game, he’ll be able to get completely open mid-range jumpers as well as any long distance shots he wants.  As in all of the one on one match-ups, O’Bannon just doesn’t want to fall in love with his jumper, even when it is falling.  He’ll want to play face up, go around, leap over and take a few short jumpers.  It would be a mistake to take any shots beyond 15 feet for O’Bannon.  If he does, he’ll give May a chance in this matchup.  It is a small chance but it does exist.  

May will be able to score on O’Bannon down low.  If he goes to a power post game and really pounds O’Bannon, he’ll score easily.  His post game was far too refined and he can handle any D O’Bannon throws at him, even though the UCLA Bruin blocked a lot of shots.  I don’t think he’ll get any on May, because the Tarheel had almost NBA post moves.  His quick feet combined with his size, he’ll back down O’Bannon and move him back. May will create that space he’ll need to keep O’Bannon off balance and avoid any shot blocking.  But, here’s the thing, in our one on one game, May has to get the ball down into the paint.  He’ll be able to do that but not easily.  That's because O’Bannon could really defend off the dribble.  May’s dribbling skills are suspect at best, so he’ll have to really protect the ball and back down O’Bannon.  I think he’ll do this but not every time.  O’Bannon is going to get his long arms on some balls and he’s going to get some steals.  He’ll also frustrate May in the Tarheel’s many attempts to simply back O’Bannon down.  That’ll probably lead to May settling for a jumper, which he might not always hit. 

The way I see the matchup going is that O’Bannon will play face up game on May and eat him up.  May will bump O’Bannon a time or two but more often than not, when O’Bannon goes to the cup, he’ll get there quickly and freely.  He may even throw down some dunks on May.  O’Bannon’s game was far to potent and versatile for May to keep up.  As long as O’Bannon doesn’t settle, this is a blowout.  Because while May will score in the paint on O’Bannon, I just don’t see him getting many chances or possessions to do it.  That’s because I don’t think May can cover O’Bannon one on one.  

O’Bannon will start with outs after hitting a three pointer (which he was good at) before the game.  From there, O’Bannon will cruise out to a big lead, maybe like 7 to 0 when he might miss a chippie down low or have a short jumper rim out.  That’ll give May a chance to go to work and he’ll score on his first couple of possessions, using some of his go to moves in the paint.  He’ll get the score to 7 to 3 but lose possession when O’Bannon comes up with a steal after May tries one too many times backing the UCLA player down into the paint.  From there, O’Bannon will go back to work with his finesse game and May won’t be able to keep up.  O’Bannon could close it out from right here but we’ll say he misses one more shot at 9 to 3 and May comes back scoring once more before he misses on a fadeaway in the post.  That’ll allow O’Bannon to finish him off.  Slam dunk.  

In my opinion, O’Bannon takes this matchup in a quick one.

Final Score:  O’Bannon- 11; May- 4


Let the Debate Begin!! 


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