Sunday, April 06, 2008

Culmination of March Madness…in April: Championship Night

Tonight is the zenith of the college basketball season. Despite the Women’s Championship Game taking place tomorrow night, in all reality, this is the nexus of the college basketball universe.

Four teams arrived in San Antonio, with UCLA & UNC both bowing out much earlier than their fans, as well as more than a few experts, had anticipated.

Is this THE top moment from the 2008 Final Four? Just maybe...
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Fortunately, an all #1-seed Final Four leaves us with two very enticing details:
1) The National Champion must defeat two fellow #1-seeds.
2) Memphis or Kansas will be a highly deserving champion.

No flukes this season. The best team will walk away national champs. Or, so we hope…

Before we dive head-first into tonight, let’s rewind back to Saturday night (as tough as that is for one of our writers) and give a few thoughts each on the national semifinal matchups.

Memphis defeated UCLA 78-63.

Derrick Rose & Robert Dozier must be chuckling that more than a few "experts" had them out well before title night.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

-Derrick Rose is as poised a freshman leader as Carmelo Anthony was in 2003 (Syracuse plug!).
-Joey Dorsey made up for the “David v. Goliath” debacle with Greg Oden and Ohio State last season.
-Ben Howland and the 3-time Final Four Bruins are slowly becoming the new Buffalo Bills. Last night’s loss had to be their most painful.

Kansas defeated North Carolina 84-68.

Bill Self, finally, got over a real hump (sorry, Davidson) in the tournament.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

-Once Kansas went up 40-12, they were as out of control (with countless justifiable offensive fouls) as I’ve ever seen a team with a 28-point lead.
-Wayne Ellington won’t be a factor in the NBA. Yeah, Clement said it.
-Kansas won’t have their so-called “revenge” on Carolina-born Roy until they win a national championship…no matter who is in the way.

As for tonight, let’s do this!

[38-1] Memphis vs. [36-3] Kansas

Heady play, on both sides of the ball, will be key for Sherron Collins (as well as any other player on the court Monday night).
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


It’s obvious to even the weakest of analysts that both teams have an extreme amount of depth. As painful as the injury to Kansas senior Rodrick Stewart was to watch, it is not as pivotal as the suspension of Memphis’s Andre Allen. While I felt Allen’s chucking would outweigh his defense against the Bruins, I’m not so sure Calipari won’t miss his defensive prowess against the four talented guards of Kansas [Chalmers, Rush, Robinson & Collins]. As for players actually in the game, Memphis will rely on four players doing what they do best: Derrick Rose dominating the ball, CDR making plays in and out of the lane, Joey Dorsey banging and bruising in the paint and Antonio Anderson locking defenders down on the perimeter. Want a wild card? Robert Dozier, despite looking shaky with the ball outside the paint on Saturday night, might need to pull a double-double (and then some) against the big, bruising and athletic Kansas big men.

As for the aforementioned Rock Chalkers, Bill Self has four guards that make plays on both sides of the ball throughout the game. However, more responsible for Kansas’s early 28-point lead was their big men. In fact, it wasn’t even the big men you might first expect (Arthur, Kaun & Jackson). Six first-half points and rebounds from freshman reserve Cole Aldrich were indispensable in spelling foul trouble and tired legs for the Jayhawks. Even more important was his ability to avoid illegal screen calls and emphatically denying several Tar Heel interior attempts. While Kansas will require a total team effort to run ’n’ gun with the Tigers, the Jayhawks need to put Dorsey, Dozier & Taggart where they can hurt Bill Self’s crew the least: on the bench. Forcing Dorsey into tough double-teams on offense and attacking him on his weak-side on defense are vital for Kansas to control the paint and eventually, the closing moments.

Here’s one final nugget to consider. What do Drew Neitzel, DJ Augustin and Darren Collison? All three are small guards and all were dominated by Memphis. Though Kansas’s backcourt quartet is strong physically, Brandon Rush is the only to be taller than 6’1”. Perhaps, Derrick Rose’s fondness for sweets may prevent him from playing at his best.

Coach Calipari's Tigers own a new record for 38 wins in a season. They won't matter without win number 39.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

The first six minutes of this game are likely to be a track meet. Outside of strict officiating, I find it hard to believe the game will reach the first TV timeout before the 14-minute mark. Baskets will be traded and momentum will be established. The problem is: Will either team be able to build an early double-digit lead OR will neither team be able to pull away early and establish what we all want…a shootout from start to finish.

-Avoid foul trouble in the closing four minutes of the first half and opening four minutes of the second half.
-Limit their shots from the three-point line (higher percentage will easily take out more attempts in this matchup).
-Be the best team in college basketball this season. Period.


[Paymon] Memphis wins 76-68
MVP: Chris Douglas-Roberts

[Clement] Kansas wins 90-89 [OT]
MOP: Brandon Rush

Could Memphis center Joey Dorsey be an MOP candidate without scoring a meaningul basket. YES!
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Enjoy tonight!

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