Kansas title caps off lackluster tournament
The Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Memphis Tigers in overtime on Monday night by a score of 75-68 to claim the NCAA Championship. The game provided about as much drama as the rest of the tournament put together, as it was just the third contest since the Sweet 16 to be decided by 10 points or less, and proved to be a satisfying end to a rather unsatisfactory tournament.
There was very little Madness in this year’s March. All four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four for the first time in history, but that’s what is supposed to happen every year, right? Just because the best teams in the country took care of business in the first few weekends, is that special? I think it’s boring.
Where were the Cinderellas? Where were the buzzerbeaters? What about the scrubs of mid-major teams huddled together on the end of the bench watching the higher seed rip their collective heart out with a big shot? We were offered only one surprise team, with the unfathomably talented Stephen Curry leading gritty Davidson to the Elite Eight. But again we were robbed of a deserving finish, as the Kansas defense swallowed up the superstar sophomore and forced him to give up the last shot.
The Davidson-Kansas game left something to be desired, and that proved to be the theme of this year’s tournament. We were supposed to be treated to one of the greatest final weekends in the tournament’s history, with the four best teams fighting for the crown. Instead, we got two blowouts and an exciting but sloppy finale.
In the first national semifinal, Memphis dismantled the perennial powerhouse UCLA Bruins 78-63. In a backcourt matchup of four potential first-round picks, Memphis’ dynamic duo rose to the occasion.
UCLA’s Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook are both fine players, but they were overmatched by Memphis’ All-Americans Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, who combined for 43 of the Tigers’ 78 points. Collison struggled on both ends of the floor, scoring just two points in 33 minutes and eventually fouling out with just less than three minutes remaining. Rose made his case for being the first overall pick in the NBA draft with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The Bruins’ All-American Kevin Love was stifled by a slew of Tiger defenders, scoring just 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting. In the second half, the super-freshman barely touched the ball thanks to suffocating defense from Joey Dorsey, a.k.a. Mini-Ben Wallace.
In the other semifinal, Kansas cruised to a 40-12 lead over the No. 1 overall seed North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC made a late push and closed the gap to just five with eight minutes left, but the comeback attempt left the players exhausted. Kansas withstood the Tar Heel barrage and pulled away to an 84-66 finish.
Naismith College Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough was held without a field goal for a 14-minute stretch in the first half while the Jayhawks pulled away from Carolina. Hansbrough finished the game with 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Final Four was supposed to be set with the best teams in the country, but two of those teams looked like they didn’t even belong in the game. The stage was set—Kansas vs. Memphis for the National Championship.
The first half lived up to its billing, as neither team could maintain any kind of significant run. After several lead changes, the Jayhawks held a five-point advantage at the break. The Kansas defense frustrated Rose, who was held to just three points in the first 20 minutes. Darrell Arthur led the way for Kansas with 10 points, going 5-for-8 in the first half.
Memphis quickly closed the gap to open the second, and the back-and-forth affair continued in the same fashion as the first frame. Rose got back on track about halfway through the second, leading his team to a comfortable 60-51 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Here’s where things went a little goofy.
Kansas head coach Bill Self switched into Hack-a-Shaq mode, forcing the Tigers to go to the free throw line every time down the floor from that point on. The strategy was a well-thought one, as Memphis shot just 61 percent from the charity stripe this season.
Down the stretch, the Tigers could not convert the clutch free throws, making just 5-of-9 in the final two minutes. With 10 seconds left, Rose finally made one to give his team a 63-60 cushion. Jayhawk guard Mario Chalmers pushed the ball up the court, and never even looked for a teammate. He drained the game-tying three-pointer with just over two seconds on the clock.
The overtime period passed without incident, as Kansas quickly and quietly handled the demoralized Tigers. Rose deferred to Douglas-Roberts for most of the overtime attempts, which ultimately proved to be the deciding factor. Whether it was freshman jitters or head coach John Calipari’s plan, the best player on the court refused to take over the game in the extra five minutes.
How fitting, then, that the tournament that is defined as Madness ended with mental lapses. First with the Tigers’ failure to concentrate and sink their free throws, and then with Rose’s bizarre decision to pass up his chance at glory.
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