In the past couple of days, I have been extremely fortunate to have written the following before the Final Four National Championship game last night;
"As for Final Four Predictions, well first, I think any of the four teams can win it all. That’s a no brainer statement considering all four teams were #1 seeds in their respective regions, an NCAA Tournament first. Each team is incredibly talented and just about all of them, with the possible exception of Memphis was a preseason Final Four candidate.
What do I think it comes down to? Defense and to a much lesser extent, free throw shooting. Defense wins championships...."
"As for tonight, I predicted Kansas to win the Final Four and I will stick with that. But I could easily see Memphis winning. Comes down again to how Kansas' guards deal with the height differential with the Memphis guards. And can Dorsey repeat his performance again the quad threat the Jayhawks pose inside? We'll see. Hopefully its an exciting game."
Like I said, even blind squirrels find nuts. Luckily for me, these were "the motherload that I can hibernate all winter thanks to these" nuts.
It was really a great game and there was a lot of defensive and offensive strategy here by both coaches. First, Memphis took away the outside shooting of Kansas with their height differential (the Jayhawks shot 3 of 12 from beyond three, but two of them were huge down the stretch), plus their guard pressure forced many Kansas' turnovers which kept the Tigers in the game early. To counter that, Kansas decided to attack Dorsey with their quartet of big men. Kansas had a huge point differential early on in the paint and a high field goal percentage (52.7 percent for the game), but as stated above, Memphis stayed in the game by forcing a lot of Kansas turnovers and taking away Kansas outside shooting.
The first half went back and forth. Memphis went out to a 9-3 lead. Then Kansas went on a 9-2 run to tie it at 11 and again tied at 13. Then the Jayhawks went on a 9-2 run to go up 22-15. Memphis would come back with their own 11-2 run and go up 26-24. Then Kansas came back with a 9-2 run to go up five at the half, 33-28. During this time, Dorsey, Robert Dozier, and Shawn Taggart each had two fouls.
In the first half and part of the second half, Kansas took Derrick Rose out of the game. They came out on him on screens, often double teamed him and Rose had to pass the ball off often. In the first 27 minutes of the game, Derrick Rose had three points on four field goal attempts. Thankfully for the Tigers Chris Douglas Roberts had 15 points during this time. Then Memphis coach John Calipari made a change at around the 13 minute mark and started having Rose be isolated on his man. The future NBA lottery pick then took over scoring 14 of the next 16 points (this included a circus shot that was originally called a three but later changed to a two point shot). It was during this time that Kansas coach Bill Self made a nearly fatal coaching mistake. With his team up one, 47-46 with a little over eight minutes left, Kansas switched to a box in one defense. Memphis figured it out, and during this time, the Tigers went on a 8-0 run, to go up 54-47 with 5:10 left. The Tigers would extend that lead to 60-51 with 2:12 left. I was at my friend Tieff's house watching the game and to us It looked like the Tigers had won.
Then Bill Self made the decision that will end up making sure he will never have to buy another drink or meal in Lawrence ever again (unless he decides to take the $6 million bonus Oklahoma State is offering him). He went to the "HackaShaq" defense. After a Darrell Arthur jumper and a timeout, Kansas stole the inbounds pass and Sheron Collins hit a three pointer to put Kansas back within four, 60-56. Kansas fouled Roberts. He made those two free throws, but Mario Chalmers hit two for the Jayhawks to make the score 62-58 with 1:15 left. Again they fouled Roberts. This time he missed the front end of a one in one free throw, and again Arthur hit a jumper to put Kansas within two, 62-60. After Roberts missed a shot, Kansas had a chance to tie but Collins turned the ball over. Again, they fouled Roberts. This time he missed two free throws but Kansas didn't box out and Dozier got the rebound and Rose was fouled by Rush with 10 seconds left. Rose hit the first to put Memphis up three, but missed the second. One last chance for Kansas to tie.
Then came the critical coaching failure by Calipari. He didn't foul Collins who was dribbling up court. Collins found Chalmers who had enough of an open look to hit a three with two seconds left. It was Miracle Mario on the 20th anniversary of Danny and the Miracles - Kansas won the NCAA championship in 1988 with Danny Manning leading the way. Somewhere Danny Manning was smiling. Wait, that somewhere was on the Kansas bench, because Manning is an assistant coach for Kansas. Hmmm, irony.
By the way, I can't believe Billy Packer wasn't talking about the non decision to foul there. In the beginning of the overtime period, they kept showing the footwork on the circus shot by Rose that was called a originally a three but correctly changed to a two. Its not like Rose knew where he was when he hoisted that at one left on the shot clock. Typical Packer. I kept telling my friend Mal on Saturday wouldn't you rather watch Lundquist and Raferty or Elmore and Gus Johnson. I mean seriously.
Anyway, the shot forced overtime and with Dorsey having fouled out with 2 minutes left, everyone in the crowd or watching the game on TV had that feeling. Memphis was done. Mentally done. And Kansas took advantage of Dorsey being out. First it was a layup by Rush. Then Arthur. Then Darrell Jackson. The Jayhawks were up six with 2:38 left and never looked back. Roberts kept it close with 5 points in the overtime period but Rose was held scoreless. In fact Rose only had that one free throw over the last four minutes of regulation and the five minutes of overtime. That was a tribute to the defense of Kansas led by Collins.
Kansas dominated inside. They held Dorsey, who had played such a great game on UCLA's Kevin Love in the semifinal, to six points and two rebounds. TWO rebounds after having 15 against Love and company. Arthur finally showed the country how good he is with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Chalmers, who was named player of the game (and to Kansas fans player of the century) had 18 points. Kansas dominated the boards with 39 to 28 advantage. Memphis only shot 40 percent for the game and was led by Roberts with 22 points and Rose with 18.
So Kansas had that dream Final Four. They pounded their arch-nemesis Roy Williams and Carolina in the semis. Then on the 20 year anniversary of Danny and the Miracles, they stage a nine point comeback with two minutes left capped by a three pointer by Chalmers, who put his name up in Jayhawks' lore with Lovelette, Chamberlain and Manning. It doesn't get sweeter than that.
By the way, I love Kansas. The administration canceled classes today, Tuesday, thanks to winning the national championship. Their website states "Celebrate safely". Yeah, if I am Kansas undergrad, I celebrate safely by sleeping late... :-)
Right now I am celebrating that for once, this blind squirrel got it right.
PS - By the way did you notice that Eric Gordon announced yesterday that he was going into the NBA draft. ESPN reports that "While he has not yet signed with an agent, his father, Eric Gordon Sr., said he intended to sign with one, which would officially end his college eligibility." Yeah do it on the day of the Final Four Championship so you get completely overshadowed and hire an agent so you have no chance to come back to college. Talk about a blind squirrel...