Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Title Game Thoughts

I don't know if there is any way that this title game loss could hurt more for Memphis. They got nothing out of Joey Dorsey, they got nothing out of Derrick Rose in the first half, but held Kansas to 18 points through the first 17:48 of the second half as they built a 60-51 lead. Down the stretch, Memphis had the people they wanted at the line. But Chris Douglas -Roberts missed the front end of a 1-and-1 up four with 1:15 left which led to a Darrel Arthur turn-around. CDR then missed both shots with 16 seconds left and the Tigers up two, but Robert Dozier got the rebound and kicked it to Derrick Rose who was fouled. But he proceeded to make just 1-2, giving Kansas a chance.

Mario Chalmers made the most of that opportunity. He took a hand-off from Collins, took one dribble left, and hit a high-arching three over Rose and Dozier that settled softly in the net, sending the game into overtime. In OT, Kansas jumped out a quick six point lead and never looked back - the closest Memphis would get was 3.

Memphis looked exhausted by the end of the game. Rose played 45 minutes, while CDR and Antonio Anderson both played 42 minutes. Memphis got a total of 7 minutes played from people not in their top 6. It was most evident in the overtime, as Kansas looked much fresher and more energetic as they jumped out to that lead, although some of that can probably be attributed to Memphis being demoralized after missing free throws and blowing their lead.

One thing I didn't mind was Calipari's decision not to foul Kansas to prevent the three at the end of regulation. The Memphis achilles heel all season has been their free throw shooting, and I know that they had been hitting them all tournament, but if you foul Kansas you are putting your guys back on the line. If Kansas hit two, and then Memphis missed one or both of them, do you really want to give Kansas a chance to win the game? Even if there only would have been four or five seconds on the clock after the Memphis foul shots, limiting what Kansas would be able to set up on offense, I still think Calipari made the right decision. Especially when you consider that the two guys he would want to take the free throws (CDR and Rose) are the ones that had been missing them.

Think about it like this - Chalmers hit a very difficult shot with a hand right in his face. How many times does he make that? 1 out of 4? Given what had just occurred in the last two minutes, I think there was a better that Kansas hit both free throws, and Memphis missed at least one of theirs than Chalmers hitting that shot. How much worse would this loss be if Chalmers had hit a shot like that, except Kansas was only down two and it won the game for them?

What gets lost in all the hoopla about the free throws in the great job that Kansas did defending CDR and Rose. CDR scored 22, but never really got into a rhythm and looked uncomfortable most of the night as Brandon Rush face guarded him and Kansas went box-and-1. Sherron Collins, Russell Robinson, and Mario Chalmers were in Rose's jock all night, holding him to just 3 points in the first 28 minutes and forcing him into 5 turnovers for the game. He did score 14 of 16 Memphis points during an eight minute stretch in the second half, which pushed the Tigers lead to 56-49, but only managed the one free throw in the last four minutes of the game.

The most important part of the Jayhawk defense was that they kept CDR and Rose from getting big baskets down the stretch while they were making their comeback. All in all, those two are talented enough that they are going to get their points. But the Jayhawks were able to keep them from taking over the game, which kept them close enough to be able to make that comeback.

The bottom line is that this was a phenomenal game and made up for what had been a lackluster last two weekends. I am curious whether this game will be remembered for the great comeback Kansas made, capped off by the Mario Chalmers shot, or the Memphis collapse down the stretch, missing all those free throws.

Now the question becomes will Bill Self return to Kansas or take the job at Oklahoma State, his alma mater. He made $1.4 million at Kansas this year, and could probably expect to get at least a $1 million raise on his new contract, but with Ok. State (read booster T. Boone Pickens' money) Self would become the richest coach in college basketball and be able to return home to coach. If you ask me, he would be crazy to leave one of the top 5 coaching jobs in the country. But, at more than double the salary, could you really blame the guy?

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