We were going to save this for our season and tourney wrapup posting, but why wait if it’s already available? Is there anyone in America who hates 1SM? Anyone at all? Not us, we’re just asking… Enjoy.
So we’ve had some time to ruminate on last night’s proceedings in San Antonio, and we keep circling back to the same conclusion. This was a great college basketball game, but it wasn’t a classically great game in the sense that both teams played exceptionally well and the better team won at the end (think the punch-counterpunch of 92 Duke-Kentucky). No, this game represented for us the maxim of: the team that chokes least is the team that wins. This is to take nothing away from Kansas, who made nearly every play (but one on the missed FT rebound that Memphis stole) in the final two minutes to give themselves a sliver of a chance to win, and once they had that chance in OT, they put the game away like champions do.
No, we’re referring to the 6-7 minutes prior to those final two, when Kansas was still leading the game by three at the 9-minute mark and Bill Self inexplicably decided to go box-and-one on Chris Douglas-Roberts despite the fact that CDR only had two points in the second half. By the same token, Derrick Rose also had only two points in the second half and was struggling to find openings in the KU defense. We all know what came next. The box-and-one opened up driving lanes and shooting spots for Derrick Rose, who then proceeded to score 12 of the next 14 Memphis points as he found the groove facilitated by the switch in Kansas defense. The next thing you know there were less than three minutes remaining and KU was down nine, looked as tight as a drum and had turned the ball over seemingly every trip down the floor. This was Memphis’ game to lose. Check our liveblog for our feelings at this point in the game – we said, “2:22 – Rose’s ridiculous shot was only a two, but somehow we knew that it was going in when he shot it. Wow, Rush babied that one when he should have dunked it. This team is TIGHT right now. We’re not sure they have enough left to make one more run.”
And with under two minutes, things changed for Kansas. Darrell Arthur threw in an 18-footer that he normally wouldn’t take or make, and then the key play of the comeback occurred – Kansas stole the ball off the inbounds and instead of driving in and taking a contested layup attempt, they kicked it out to Sherron Collins for a dagger three. Those two plays were the most offense KU had enjoyed in the last eight minutes of the game. And suddenly, KU was only down four and it seemed as if their confidence was back.
But the Memphis choke hadn’t begun yet. Both teams traded FTs, and then with 1:15 remaining CDR (71%) missed the first of three consecutive foul shots. All badly. Kansas’ Sherron Collins made a terrible decision to go 1-on-3 against the Memphis bigs after one of those misses, but it didn’t matter because CDR couldn’t convert on the line anyway. The one that really surprised us the most was Derrick Rose missing the first of two FTs with only ten seconds left. For a moment we were thinking this could be Darius Washington, Jr., time again, but he did convert the second and KU came screaming upcourt.
Calipari Sees It Slipping Away (RICH SUGG/Kansas City Star)
Bilas, Digger and Vitale were going on and on about how Calipari should have called timeout after the Rose FT and given his troops some direction as to whether to foul (Memphis had two TOs left). In the postgame comments, Calipari made a dubious claim (see 0:21 to 0:34) that they tried to foul Sherron Collins when he was falling down out of control, but replays show clearly that the Memphis defenders were trying very hard to keep from fouling there. We tend to agree that the coaches should foul in those situations, but it’s more fun for the viewing public when they don’t. At any rate, it’s obvious that Calipari and his team were shellshocked by being two minutes from a national championship and really had no clue as to what they should be doing at that point. When Chalmers shot dropped to tie the game (and Dozier’s 50 footer missed), we would have given whatever odds you wanted on Memphis at that point. There was no way they were coming back from that collapse. Actually, in recent history the collapse reminds us a little of the UNC-Georgetown regional final game in last year’s tournament. There was simply no way that UNC was coming back in the OT after gacking up that lead in the final few minutes.
KU – 2008 National Champions (SHANE KEYSER/Kansas City Star)
So it was a great championship game, probably the best since that 1997 OT game between Arizona and Kentucky (which also featured some choking by UK’s Nazr Mohammed at the foul line). And Mario Chalmers deserves all the accolades he shall receive for stepping into that pressure-filled three pointer like a champion and knocking it down. Congrats to the Jayhawks.
Now about that Bill Self to Oklahoma St. thing…
Normally I am not one to enjoy seeing another team’s fans suffer unless they are a rival in which case I will taunt them mercilessly. However, I did not have a rooting interest (spiritual or financial) in last night’s game so part of me felt bad for Memphis as they choked away the game and the title. I just uncovered something that makes their collapse a little more enjoyable.
Just knowing that Justin Timberlake had to sit through the last 2 minutes of regulation and the inevitable loss in OT will make the replays much more enjoyable for me since he’s already run through Britney Spears (pre-KFed), Cameron Diaz, Scarlett Johansson, and Alyssa Milano not to mention countless other girls we haven’t heard about. At least we know that last night he experienced the same empty feeling that all of us have experienced at one time or the other. So what now, Timberlake?
Well, at least he had to suffer until he got back to that. . .
Editor’s Note: We are aware there are better pics of Miss Biel online, but we try to keep a family-friendly blog here so you’ll have to use Google Images for that stuff.
I provided my instant (revised) analysis very early this morning and rtmsf will be providing his a little later today. I thought I would provide you with some of the thoughts of various other sportswriters.
-At the Alamo, this was one to remember: Bob Ryan, who most of you may know from his frequent appearances on ESPN, offers his thoughts on the game and the Kansas team, which may get lost in all the talk about missed FTs and Chalmers huge shot.
-It takes more than talent: Stewart Mandel on one of the biggest title game collapses ever.
-The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: RTC’s most well-known fan (and SI writer/CBS college basketball studio analyst) Seth Davis provides a short Q&A in between the game and his early-morning wakeup call to be on Mike & Mike.
-Chalmers, Kansas get One Shining Moment: Pat Forde on the defining moment of the tournament (with apologies to the Davidson fans).
-Calipari: We let national title ‘slip out of our hands’: Andy Katz with one of the million columns on how Memphis let the title slip away.
-Chalmers’s Effort on Both Ends Keys Jayhawks’ Win: Camille Powell credits Mario Chalmers’s play on both ends for the title, which most writers missed because everybody has focused so much on his 3 with 2.1 secs left.
-Plenty of Twists, One Final Turn: John Feinstein, author of the famous “Season on the Brink”, offers his perspective on the title game.
-Without Collins, there are no Chalmers heroics: Dana O’Neil credits Sherron Collins with keying the Jayhawks’ win on Monday night.
-Self should ignore the dollars and stay at Kansas: Gene Wojciechowski implores Bill Self not to leave Kansas for Oklahoma State and Boone Pickens’s money.
-Sharp Defense Gives Jayhawks Edge in Matchup of Top Guards: Joe LaPointe argues that it was defense that led Kansas to victory. We agree although the missed Memphis FTs didn’t hurt. . .
-A Dominant Half by Rose Falls Short by One Shot: Thayer Evans breaks down Derrick Rose’s performance that was one shot (either Chalmers’s 3 or a made FT by either Rose or Chris Douglas-Roberts) away from being named MOP.
- Mario’s Miracle: Kansas Is The Champ: Luke Winn breaks down the Jayhawks’ comeback/Tigers’ collapse and Chalmers’s huge shot.
- Rock Chalk, Champions: Grant Wahl offers his extensive analysis of the Jayhawks victory. This is probably the most thorough piece we have seen on the championship game so far.
- What is the Best Shot in NCAA Tournament History?: SI’s Andy Gray offers his take on the top 5 shots in NCAA tournament history. We’d be interested to hear where you think Chalmers’s shot ranks.
- NCAA Championship Grades: It seems fitting to end our link post with title game grades (courtesy of Bill Trocchi) for the student-athletes.
What is it with Roy’s sartorial choices this weekend? About seven minutes into tonight’s championship game, CBS indulged us with a shot of ol’ cryin’ Roy sitting in the stands wearing a black shirt emblazoned with a clearly noticeable decal of a Kansas Jayhawk on the front of it.
Let’s repeat this for clarity. The coach at North Carolina was sitting in public wearing a Kansas Jayhawks shirt and rooting for KU at the sport’s biggest event a mere two days after his team was folded, spindled and mutilated by said Jayhawks team.
Has Roy gone completely insane?
It’s obvious to everyone that Roy would privately root for his former employer, but such a public display of affection surely pushes all sensible and acceptable boundaries of decorum for a coach. Right? As Bo Schembechler said when he fired Bill Frieder in 1989 for his dalliance with Arizona St., a “Michigan man is going to coach Michigan.” While Roy isn’t halfway out the door the same way that Frieder was, you have to wonder how Carolina AD Dick Baddour feels about this affront to the Carolina brand.
And what about his players who likely will be having nightmares for the next six months of Jayhawk blue running through, over and around them en route to grasping their hopes and dreams of a title shot away from them. Do they not see a problem with Roy’s behavior here?
Carolina Nation was atwitter over this tonight. The message boards on Inside Carolina had filled fourteen pages with posts about Roy’s seeming lack of discretion. Here’s some of the better quotes from their fans on the matter:
We haven’t yet corroborated this, but we also heard that John Thompson (the dad) called out Roy for this decision during his broadcast of the game on Westwood One.
In the interest of full disclosure, I had a draft for this ready with a little over a minute left in the game congratulating Memphis for winning the game and making their FTs when it mattered since they had made their last 4 when Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped to the line. . .
After 2 blowouts in the semifinals, we finally got a close game. After a first half that lacked any real flow to it with both teams playing well offensively in spurts but never at the same time, the game took on the character we all expected with up-and-down end-to-end action. As we expected, Kansas dominated inside while Memphis won the perimeter battle. The shot charts for Kansas was particularly astounding as for most of the game Kansas scored nearly 70% of its points in the paint with most being lay-ups.
A couple of observations:
1) Billy Packer was right. As much as we hate to say it, he was dead-on when he said John Calipari should stop setting up picks for Derrick Rose since the Jayhawk big men showed absolutely no interest in staying on the guy setting the pick. This essentially put Rose up against a double-team every time without the pick man rolling to the basket hard. Bill Self almost cost Kansas the title when he switched to the box-and-one to help slow down CDR, who was destroying Brandon Rush at that point. The box created enough separation that the Tigers’ screens were useless so they stopped setting them, which freed up Rose to go by his man. I don’t understand why Calipari would even set the picks for Rose, who can blow by anybody at this level by himself. Picks can make it easier, but not when the opposition doubles the ball and the pick man doesn’t create a good passing angle. Fortunately for Memphis, Self made it easy for Calipari by switching to the box-and-one. Rose took over the game almost from the moment that Kansas switched to the box-and-one.
2) Rose should be the #1 pick in the draft. I love Michael Beasley’s game (and his “We’ll beat them [Kansas] in Africa” quote), but I just think Rose will be a much more valuable commodity at the next level as there are a lot more good PFs than PGs in the NBA. When Rose gets a full head of steam, he’s unguardable. He may struggle his rookie year adjusting to life in the NBA (the $106 per diem will buy a lot of Gummy Bears) due to his tendency to be a little bit out of control at times and the fact that he will finally play against guys who are on the same level as him. However, I can only think of two guards (Deron Williams and Chris Paul) that I would take over Rose for the next 5-10 years and that’s only because they are proven commodities while Rose still has to prove that he can handle himself at the next level. That said, as ridiculous as Chris Paul has been this year, Rose has a higher ceiling than either of them. While Rose was unable to close the deal, I don’t hold it against him (look to CDR for that) as he showed me more than enough during the tournament to make me a believer.
3) The Kansas inside game disappeared late in the 2nd half. For the first 30 minutes of the game, it seemed like I was going to be writing the Tigers 2007-2008 obituary by talking about how they got destroyed in the paint. It was probably a combination of Kansas not working hard enough to get the ball inside and Memphis packing it in late in the 2nd half. Either way, this (along with Self’s bizarre decision to go box-and-one) almost cost the Jayhawks the title. After Mario Chalmers hit his miracle 3 to force OT, Kansas reestablished itself inside and cruised to victory.
4) Heart attacks sky rocket in Lawrence and Memphis tonight. Ok. I was trying to write this paragraph during the last 2 minutes of the game to post before going to bed. Originally it was “Memphis hits the FTs when it mattered” (4/4 at that point) then it was “Rose = $$$” when he stepped to the line. This observation obviously didn’t want to be written so I’ll move onto #5.
5) FTs killed Memphis. This should have been the #1 point and it will be the headline of this game as long as people talk about it. It’s sort of humorous that the media finally stopped hounding Calipari about the Tigers’ FT shooting coming into this game and they laid an egg in the biggest moment. The last minute-plus was basically the anti-Rumeal Robinson as CDR was the guy that Memphis fans wanted to be in that position. After going 11/14 before the last minute-plus, Memphis finished 1/5 giving Chalmers the chance to hit a 3 that will only grow in legend in Lawrence, Kansas.
6) Holy $&!% I can’t even begin to come up with a word to describe how big that 3 by Chalmers was. The only other thing I can compare it to is Keith Smart’s shot in 1987 to help Indiana beat Syracuse. While this didn’t officially win the game, for all intents and purposes Chalmers shot won the game. There was no way Memphis was going to come back after they choked away the game at the line and Chalmers hit that shot. I would criticize Calipari for not taking the foul at that point, but it appears they Rose tried to commit a foul but it wasn’t called. After the shot, the game like this post-mortem was over.
We kinda suck at this, but what the hell, it is the national title game after all. So here goes it…
Pregame – we kinda enjoyed Bill Self’s little pregame speech there. It wasn’t Vince Lombardi or even Norman Dale, but the point he made about tonight being a night the players will remember for the rest of their lives was a good one. We also enjoyed seeing the Memphis warmups stating “March is a Brotherhood” thing – first time we’ve seen those (apologies to MU fans everywhere). The KU fans are ready to explode – they’ve been waiting for tonight for twenty years. As an elite program, they need that validation another championship brings – whereas the Memphis fans want it. Fwiw, Memphis definitely looks looser through warmups.
18:15 – wow, who had Joey Dorsey at +1200 for the first basket prop?!?! Arthur was short on his first attempt and Rush missed a FT – are they tight? Sloppy so far – already four turnovers… KANSAS IS TIGHT.
15:36 – that stat CBS threw up is telling – these teams really are mirror images of each other. Another KU turnover, but Memphis isn’t looking much better on offense. Derrick Rose AND 1… Robinson is a great defender but he’s going to have his hands full tonight. Memphis is so far doing to KU on defense what KU did to UNC the other night – absolutely getting their hands on everything. Blocking a Rush three – are you kidding?
14:53 – KU down 9-5 isn’t too terrible yet; we think that they’ll settle down and start going inside soon. Packer takes credit for something he really hadn’t said yet (Collins to Kaun backscreen).
13:40 – 71% in the Tourney from the line is amazing for this team. Does that mean Shaq just needs to concentrate more also? Packer busily making up words – nondefensible.
12:17 – guess Billy meant the second one:
12:05 – 2 on Taggart and 2 on Dozier – well, that was predictable. KU has recovered nicely from its opening nerves, going inside the last several possessions. That’s where they’ll win or lose this game.
9:42 – great kickout to Chalmers for a wide open 3. Memphis has to know they’re not going to win this game with their inside people. Rose and CDR have to get going. Right now Kansas looks in great shape.
9:11 – Saturday hero Aldrich comes in and immediately makes two mistakes. Lucky for him, Chalmers stole it back and got two. Big momentum-changer there.
7:50 – we loved Rose not going 1-on-4 there and finding the open Anderson for three. That’s maturity in a point guard. Another 3 for Dozier keeps it close.
7:22 – wow, Roy with the olive branch there. Guess he wants to be loved at both schools after all. Memphis with a nice 11-2 run here to stay in this game. This game is starting to have the earmark of being a fantastic one.
4:44 – CDR’s game reminds us a lot of Tayshaun Prince. It’s awkward, kinda ugly, but completely effective. Already with 13 pts, KU is going to have to figure out how to handle this guy.
3:50 – KU is hitting 60% and is still tied. That can’t be a great sign for Self at this point.
2:31 – not sure how that was a block on Dorsey there, but it means Dorsey has 2 to go along with his frontcourt mates. KU is much faster to the loose balls right now.
1:02 – before that foul, Arthur was playing great. 10/4 already for him. Packer’s point about their big men getting tired appears to be the case – KU almost has as many offensive rebounds (6) as Memphis does total rebounds (9) at this point. This is a key last minute and Calipari knows it – Memphis is playing tired and he doesn’t want to go into the locker room down 8 or even 10 after playing mostly even this half.
0:32 – a near turnover for Rose leading to a rushed brick – Rose doesn’t look comfortable, but we’re not buying the illness thing (gummy bears don’t make you that sick). We think Nantz is on to something with his comment that Sherron Collins has gotten into his head a little bit. Will he take the challenge in the second half?
Halftime – who had the under 146 tonight – that’s looking like a LOCK right now. Unless Derrick Rose takes over this second half, we’re not sure how Memphis can win this game given what we’ve seen thus far. Kansas can get points almost any time it wants by going inside – so long as the Jayhawks don’t forget to do that, they should be able to avoid any major scoring droughts. They had 8 turnovers, but at least half of those were in the first five minutes and were probably due to jitters. And they’re playing fantastic defense on everyone on Memphis, with the possible exception of CDR (5-8 for 13 pts). But CDR cannot beat Memphis by himself. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to Rose. If he steps up his game in the second half, Memphis has a shot to win; without him playing to his abilities, however, this game is already over (h/t to Billy Packer). Still, we really like Kansas to win this game and the title (same as earlier today).
19:33 – Rose with a great move to start the half, leading to a dunk. He’s gonna have to do plenty of that. Quick three for Anderson – tie game. Chalmers FTs and Anderson And1… Memphis appears a lot more aggressive than Kansas right now.
15:15 – Now the Kansas D is swarming again, but here’s Rose with a lob to Dorsey to counter. Foul on Dorsey for his third. Kansas has to keep going inside on nearly every possession. If they do, they could have every Memphis big in foul trouble by the 8-min mark.
14:00 – As much as we’re harping on Kansas going inside, they’re only 1-7 from three so far. Packer noted that they didn’t shoot well from 3 in their losses this year. They’re going to have to hit a few (~4) of these looks to win this game. Wow, the rim was unkind to both teams on what appeared to be sure twos there.
11:35 – 0-2 for Anderson from the line – is this the close game where it finally bites Memphis? CDR with another one of those Tayshaun-esque one-handers. We love this kid. Rose with his first bucket of the second half… wow, these Ds are fantastic. There are no uncontested passes at either end.
9:31 – what kind of offense was that – KU ran the weave through six passes, and finally Chalmers stuck a 15-footer. Here comes Rose with his strength – another basket. KU misses another three – 1-8 isn’t going to get it done, Jayhawks.
8:08 – Kansas switches defense and immediately gives up an And1 to Dozier. Another brick from the line, though (now 4-7). Not sure we like this defensive strategy by Kansas here – CDR wasn’t killing them this half, so why change up the D? Now you give a guy like Rose open looks to start getting it going. This may have been a disastrous decision by Self. Can someone explain that???
6:19 – Rose is starting to show signs of feeling it. Kansas can’t seem to find the openings anymore. Another missed 3 from Collins – still only 1-9 from outside. KU is starting to look really tight offensively. Scoreboard watching? Why are they not going inside anymore???
5:10 – WOW – what a finish! Rose is taking over this game!!
3:57 – Sherron Collins with some brass ones on that move. And Rose throws one off the glass for three. Ridiculous. A 13-2 stretch led by Rose has effectively put Kansas away in this game. They already look defeated out there.
2:22 – Rose’s ridiculous shot was only a two, but somehow we knew that it was going in when he shot it. Wow, Rush babied that one when he should have dunked it. This team is TIGHT right now. We’re not sure they have enough left to make one more run. Self changing defenses again (1-2-2 zone), let’s see how this one works out. Rose very nearly hit another desperation long-range jumper there.
1:54 – KU is starting the fouling strategy (2-2 FTs). It’s probably too little too late here. KU just isn’t getting anything out of its offense, and hasn’t for about the last ten minutes. Arthur hit an 18-footer, which is not really what they needed there.
1:44 – HUGE steal and three for Kansas there. Only down four now. If the fouling strategy starts working, this could get interesting…
1:23 – 4-4 FTs for Memphis since the fouling strategy started. And Dorsey fouls out 25 feet from the basket on a hedge. Pretty stupid play, actually.
1:15 – Chalmers gets both, and CDR is fouled again. He MISSES. Interesting! Arthur down to 2… now they don’t have to foul….
44.0 – gotta believe Rose is the man here to make something happen. Shot clock different is 25 so KU will have plenty of time… VERY dangerous play there by Rose. What was Collins DOING there?!?!!?
14.0 – he misses BOTH and KU is killing themselves by not getting the rebound! Unbelievable! Then CDR slammed the ball to the ground – another extremely dangerous play – after the foul. Jumping back a bit, Packer was all over Memphis for not pulling the ball out on CDR’s drive, but we can’t believe that 5’11 Sherron Collins thought it was a good idea to go 1-on-3 against the Memphis shotblockers there.
10.8 – Memphis has missed FOUR in a row!!!!!!!
OT – What an amazing sequence there. Collins almost pulled a Trajan Langdon by dribbling himself into falling down, but he managed to just be awkward enough to give Chalmers an slight opening, where he drilled it fading slightly away. What an unbelievable finish! Last OT – 1997 and what, 1989 before that one??
4:21 – KU’s first lead since they effectively starting choking it away. Is Memphis feeling the pressure now? Sure looks like it. If KU wins this game, Memphis fans will never get over missing four of the last five FTs to give Kansas a sliver of hope.
3:38 – where has that been (lob dunk)?? Without Dorsey, Memphis must rely on offense from Rose, and instead Anderson bricks a three.
2:32 – After another inside score from KU, Calipari calls timeout and looks like a guy who just lost the national championship. KU has ALL the momentum here. Rose is going to have to try to use his talent to put this team on his shoulders, b/c they’re reeling right now.
1:48 – good stop there by Memphis. They’re not out of this game yet, but Rose is going to have to do something.
1:00 – two misses by KU and a putback followed by a leakout where it appeared that Brandon Rush’s knee gave out a little bit (scary), then an ENORMOUS three by CDR to cut it to one possession. Kansas is still in control of this game, because they’ll hit their FTs under pressure (we think).
45.1 – not sure why you foul Collins there. He’s a good FT shooter, and KU is stroking them (last 11 from the line). He got both with no problem whatsoever.
29.9 – hahahaha, as soon as we’re thinking it’s over, one of these teams does something completely stupid, like oh we dunno, slipping and falling out of bounds to give Memphis life.
12.8 – another miss by CDR, and now we’re starting to hear the haunting sounds of Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk… this is Kansas’ game to lose now. They make FTs and they’re the champs. Memphis’ lack of FT acumen makes them the chumps.
FINAL – Kansas is the 2008 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS – what an UNBELIEVABLE comeback thanks to the Memphis free throws! And Nantz gives us his obligatory “Rock, Chalk, Championship” phrase. Thanks, Jim. We don’t remember the F4 having fireworks before – or are all the Memphis fans erupting in random acts of gunfire?
Postgame – we’re not sure what to say here. This game reminded us a little bit of Arizona’s comeback against Kentucky in the last OT game in 1997, but we can’t remember a national championship game decided by four missed FTs in the final minute. Self won this game with his strategy of fouling at the end, but we still believe he made a mistake by changing up the defenses that were working in the mid-second half. For the two of you that were reading along, thanks for indulging us… More later…
If you’ve read this blog before, you know that we have an affinity for historical context when it comes to college basketball. We like to think about how teams and players match up statistically in the NCAA Tournament given the parameters of greatness already set by precedent. For example, much has been already written about this year’s F4 perhaps being the strongest of all-time, illustrated by the combined 143-9 record coming into last weekend and the four #1 seeds. We love that stuff.
To that end, we could be on the verge of another historic college basketball event the likes of which we haven’t seen for a generation. Memphis currently sits at 38-1, which already gives the Tigers the record for most wins in a season, but if they win their 39th tonight versus Kansas they’ll be able to make a claim of greatness that only one team has been able to make since the UCLA run ended in 1975 – with a victory, they will become the first one-loss team in the post-UCLA era to win a championship. Only the 1976 Indiana team (32-0) would surpass the final record that Memphis is contemplating tonight.
Memphis Tigers – All Time Great Team?
Now, why does this matter? We think it is important because a 39-1 record would squarely place 2007-08 Memphis into the argument of one of the greatest teams of the post-UCLA era. This is especially true given the caliber of opponent that they have beaten in the last three rounds (#5 Michigan St., #2 Texas, #1 UCLA) and how they have beaten them. A 50-20 halftime score against Michigan St.; a clamping down of Texas and DJ Augustin in their home state; and rendering the vaunted UCLA defense completely ineffective on Saturday. Additionally, Memphis’ scoring margin of +18.6 this season would rank it #2 in the last ten years of champions (Duke 2001: +20.2), so this team is all kinds of legit in historical terms.
It’s also interesting to consider that outside of the unbeaten 1976 Indiana team, no other team in the modern era has managed to win a title with less than 2 losses! Here are the results for the group of teams with zero or one loss entering the Tourney.
1977 – San Francisco (29-1) – lost first round to UNLV
1979 – Indiana St. (33-0) – lost title game to Michigan St.
1988 – Temple (29-1) – lost regional finals to Duke
1990 – Lasalle (29-1) – lost second round to Clemson
1991 – UNLV (34-0) – lost semifinals to Duke
1996 – UMass (35-1) – lost semifinals to Kentucky
1997 – Kansas (32-1) – lost regional semifinals to Arizona
1999 – Duke (37-1) – lost title game to UConn
2004 – St. Joseph’s (27-1) – lost regional final to Oklahoma St.
2005 – Illinois (37-1) – lost title game to UNC
2008 – Memphis (38-1) – ???????
Without question, Indiana St., UNLV, UMass, Kansas, Duke and Illinois were on the verge of greatness had they won the national championship. We think Memphis is on that same plane. While it’s true that CUSA sucks and doesn’t provide much in the way of competition for the Tigers during the regular season, Memphis challenged itself this year with nine OOC games against NCAA Tournament teams, including UConn, Arizona, Gonzaga and Tennessee. They certainly have the talent to be in the argument with many of those other one-loss teams, and their performance to date (despite all the naysayers, ourselves included) substantiates its inclusion among the pantheon of great teams should they pull it off tonight.
We think we’ve figured out what actually caused UNC to come out and play like complete garbage for the first twelve minutes of the game Saturday night.
It was that horrid tie, stupid!
Clearly the Carolina players were so thrown by Roy’s 3D Magic Eye tie (could you see the hidden picture of Dean Smith in there? us neither), that their depth perception was off for a while. This explains the errant passes, the bricks from all over the court, and the general play akin to a drunken soldier on leave for the first part of the game.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer
Some enterprising soul was so taken with Roy’s tie choice that he even chose to put together a music video honoring it. Hey, we don’t judge (h/t to Brahsome)…
After Saturday night’s blowouts, we can only hope that tonight’s title bout will give us a great game to finish off the season. I think both teams have too much talent to get blown out, but I never would have expected UNC to fall behind 40-12 before nearly making Billy Packer look like an ass (again).
I’ll offer my take and hopefully rtmsf will add his too later (see below).
Aside from a shaky performance at the free throw line against Mississippi State that made their 2nd round game much closer than it should have been, Memphis has totally dominated the opposition on its way to Monday night. I don’t think I am going too far into the realm of hyperbole when I say that their performance in the last 3 games has been as dominant as any team I can remember from the Sweet 16 to the National Semifinals. The even more amazing thing is that a lot of people were picking the Tigers to lose each of those games. The Tigers gave us all an indication of how far off we were in the first game of that stretch when they destroyed Michigan State in their Sweet 16 game as they led 50-20 at half. After easily beating Texas in Houston to advance to the Final 4, the Tigers had a little tougher time with the Bruins who hung tough for a half. Despite the close score for most of the game, I never got the sense that Memphis might lose the game. Of course, the poor FT shooting was at the back of my mind. As I noted in my post immediately after the game, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose completely dominated the game with Rose controlling the game from end-to-end and CDR controlling it inside the 3-pt line. Joey Dorsey also submitted what may be the greatest 0-point performance in a Final 4 by a non-PG (I can’t think of a great 0-pt performance by a PG, but just trying to be safe). Memphis also got a solid performance out of Shawn Taggert. One thing that has gone largely overlooked in the CDR-Rose lovefest was how good the Tigers played defense, which is something they have been doing all year. Perhaps it is because they are so captivating on offense or the fact that they rely on length and instincts rather than the Shane Battier step-in-front-for-the-charge style that the ESPN analysts seem to love so much. In any case, the Tigers’ defense is what really gets things going for them. Perhaps, if their key guys stuck around for another year or two or Rose came in a few years earlier (and they learned how to shoot FTs), we would be talking about this Memphis team along the lines of a 21st century Runnin’ Rebs team.
As for Kansas, like I said on Saturday night I’m not really sure what to say. They had one of the easiest paths to the Final 4 (based on opponents’ seed) that I can remember and the cruised all the way to San Antonio with the exception of the Davidson game where they looked tight. However, they made up for it on Saturday night against #1 overall seed UNC. Their performance in the first 15 minutes of the game was among the best I have ever seen at the college level. They were all over the court hounding UNC into countless turnovers as they jumped out to a 40-12 lead. The image of the game for me was little-used, but much-hyped freshman Cole Aldrich ripping the ball away from everybody’s national POY Tyler “Psycho T” Hansbrough. After Billy Packer declared the game was over with 7:32 left in the 1st half, Kansas fell apart and appeared to be headed towards an epic collapse when UNC brought the game to 54-50 with 11:16 left in the game. The Jayhawks survived with a late run of their own (possibly due to UNC running out of gas too). If you watched the first half of the game, you are aware of the tremendous pressure that the Kansas guards can exert. That pressure will certainly be put to a challenge against the Tigers’ talented backcourt.
A couple key things to watch tonight:
1) What tempo does Kansas want to play at? Kansas showed us on Saturday night that it can thrive on a fast pace against a very talented team. However, as you have probably read Kansas has the ability to play at both a quick (talented guards & inside guys who can run) and slow pace (guards who can penetrate & multiple inside guys with developed post games). Normally I would recommend that Bill Self flip a coin and use that to decide which way to play because Kansas can win either way, but against Memphis that is a different story. While the Tigers have talented, athletic guys at every position, they are much better when the game is up-tempo and they can use their athleticism. The Tigers lack a traditional inside game and don’t have many great outside shooters. Thus, Self should really thing about trying to slow the game down. It sounds crazy given how good Kansas looked against UNC (and it’s easier said than done), but doing so would give the Jayhawks their best shot at winning their first title since Danny Manning and Larry Brown led them to the promised land in 1988.
2) Who will guard Derrick Rose? Kansas has 2 exceptional defensive guards in Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson, who both did a great job harassing UNC in the first half. As you may have heard, Rose is a completely different beast. As good as the Jayhawk defenders are, I don’t think they can stay with Rose if it is an uptempo game. However, if Bill Self listens to me and slows the pace of the game down, Kansas can use both in addition to Brandon Rush to try to contain Rose. I am assuming Rush will draw CDR, which is a tough assignment in itself, but he will need to help off CDR if and when Rose gets by his man.
3) Will Dorsey stay out of foul trouble? Shawn Taggert is a nice player, but he isn’t really built to battle the big guys from Kansas. If Memphis is going to win the title, they will need Dorsey on the court as he is the only one with the strength to give the Tigers an edge in this match-up. Dorsey will have to win the battle (or at least limit the Jayhawks’ advantage) against Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun, & Co. if Memphis wants to cut down the nets in San Antonio.
Opening Line: Pick ‘em.
Prediction: It looks like the money in Vegas is going towards Memphis winning as the line has shifted to Memphis -2, which is a pretty big shift for a game that was originally a pick ‘em less than 24 hours ago. I could see this game going either way, but in the end I think the brilliance of Rose (assuming he lays off the Gummy Bears) and solid all-around play of CDR will carry the day. Plus, as I’ve learned decision markets are usually pretty reliable indicators of what will happen so I’m going with the Tigers in a hard-fought battle.
We’re still in considerable shock at just how dominant Kansas looked vs. North Carolina Saturday night. For the first ten minutes of that game, it appeared as if KU was playing Colorado in the Phog; NOT the de facto tournament favorite led by everybody’s favorite superhero, Tyler Hansbrough. Kansas was bigger, quicker, faster, and simply wanted it more. One thing we believe was a major factor but has been left unsaid in much of the MSM was that the KU players spent the entire week hearing Roy this and Roy that and they wanted to stick it to him for leaving the program in the manner that he did (even though his departure predates all of their arrivals at KU). Of course, all of the players and certainly Bill Self will deny this forever more, but KU played that first half as if something had been stolen from them. Carolina didn’t play with the same fire and intensity, and it showed (40-12). We’ll leave it to the KU fans to provide this info, but we can’t remember the last time a Roy Williams coached team was so thoroughly and completely dominated as they were last night. If it has happened at all, we’re guessing it would have been in the 90s.
As for the other semifinal, UCLA’s tendency to endure prolonged scoring droughts ultimately proved ineffective when facing a team with the caliber of Memphis’ talent. We were surprised with just how thoroughly dominated Darren Collison was by Derrick Rose as well as UCLA’s maddening inability to get the ball to Kevin Love in the post. Part of that was the Tiger defense making it very difficult for Love to find his preferred spots, but part of it is also attributable to poor decision-making by Mbah a Moute, Collison and others. It wouldn’t ultimately have mattered, because the Bruins were an offensively flawed team and they were never going to score enough points to threaten Memphis, but it still surprised us.
So we’re now left with the two least flawed teams in the tournament. It’s been well documented that Memphis struggles with FTs, and it showed in their one semi-scare against Mississippi St. in the second round; it’s also been commonly discussed that Bill Self teams have a tendency to choke under pressure, and KU certainly had a scare against Davidson and looked shaky at times yesterday after leading by 28 points. But these are ultimately nitpicks because both of these teams are beyond excellent and filled with NBA talent all over the floor. So which of these two squads is better and will win Monday night?
The thing that really stood out to us when we were watching the Carolina massacre was just how big and athletic Kansas looked compared to UNC (a team that itself has a reputation for size and athleticism). We think that this is the one area where Memphis can be exploited. UCLA was unable to capitalize on this advantage because only Love was a capable scorer on the blocks. Kansas can get offense underneath from not only Arthur, Jackson and Kaun off the bench, but also apparently from Cole Aldrich (who looked fantastic (8/7) in his 16 minutes yesterday). We think this is the mismatch that will have Bill Self salivating for the next 20 hours or so.
Memphis will counter with the silky smooth Derrick Rose (25/9/4 assts) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (28/4), but with the perimeter defense that we expect from the KU guards (who held the UNC perimeter players to 16-47 shooting), we think that Memphis is going to have trouble finding enough offense to match the Jayhawks. Put simply, there’s absolutely no way we see that the KU defense allows 83% of Memphis’ points to come from the backcourt as UCLA did, and who among the Memphis bigs will pick up the scoring slack? Dorsey? Taggart? Dozier? If that group collectively scores over 15 pts, we’ll be shocked.
So despite what the decision markets and our compadre on this blog suggest, we’re going with the Jayhawks to cut down the nets tomorrow night. Bill Self gets his first title, and John Calipari starts to hear the ignoble distinction of being the best active coach to not win a championship.
Hey, if you can’t stop Memphis uber-frosh Derrick Rose using traditional definitions of defense, denial and hard work, why not just make sure he gets an upset tummy off of a diet of gummy bears, starburst and sour straws. Sometimes we forget how old some of these guys are…
From the AP report:
He walked into a scheduled group interview with his fellow starters and coach John Calipari, then went over to Calipari and whispered something to him. They went into the hall together, then Calipari returned alone. “He said his stomach was bothering him,” Calipari said. “I told him to go back and see the trainer.” The Tigers were scheduled to practice at the Alamodome at 2 p.m., but Calipari opted to work out elsewhere. A team spokesman said Rose’s status would be updated later Sunday. Teammates weren’t too worried. “He eats Gummy Bears and Starburst for breakfast, and Twizzlers and Honey Buns for dinner. That’s why his stomach hurts,” fellow guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. “We tell Derrick the whole year, ‘Stop eating so many Gummy Bears and Sour Straws.’ But he can’t. … Nobody eats Gummy Bears more than him.”
Is it possible a new shipment of candied assortments will show up at Rose’s hotel room (Riverwalk Marriott Room #1973) around 5pm CDT tomorrow? KU fans, hit your candy stores now – you may have inadvertently stumbled upon 38-1 Memphis’ kryptonite.