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Kansas knocked off Memphis in San Antonio in 2008 to win the National Championship.
The Jayhawks entered the 2007-2008 season with the perfection combination of experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Seniors Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson weren't the most talented players on the roster, but they had all improved significantly throughout their careers as Jayhawks, especially Jackson who seemingly came out of nowhere and turned into Kansas' go-to guy in the post.
Jackson averaged 11.2 and 6.7 PPG his senior season, and took some of the pressure off the more celebrated Jayhawk forwards, Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur. Rush, the team's leading scorer, presented pretty much any opponent with a matchup problem as he was took quick for opposing team's big men to guard, and too big for opposing team's guards.
He was also a tremendous three-point shooter (41 percent), and his stretch ability allowed for Jackson, Arthur and Kaun to get more touches in the paint. Another key member of this Jayhawks team was junior point guard Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers averaged 12.8 PPG and 4.3 APG for the Jayhawks and was one of the better point guards in the entire country. Rounding out the roster for the Jayhawks were talented underclassmen Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Collins and Aldrich would go on to play prominent roles later in their careers, but playing time was sparse on this Jayhawks team so they sometimes got lost in the mix due to all of Kansas' talent. Still, Aldrich and Collins were solid contributors off the bench, and Aldrich's improvement throughout the season was extremely impressive.
Kansas cruised through the first three rounds of the tournament, beating Portland State, UNLV and Villanova by an average margin of 19.3 PPG. In the Elite Eight, however, Stephen Curry and the Cinderella Davidson Wildcats awaited.
Curry and Davidson were the talk of the tournament, and seemingly everyone outside of Lawrence, Kansas was rooting for the Wildcats in this one. However, despite 25 points from Curry, Kansas was able to hold the resilient Wildcats off and win 59-57.
Jason Richards missed a three-point attempt as time expired that would have sent Davidson to their first Final Four in school history. In the Final Four, Kansas faced a UNC team that was largely considered to be the tournament favorite when the tournament began.
However, the Jayhawks jumped all over the Tar Heels, leading 40-12 at one point late in the first half. Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington sparked a second half rally for the Tar Heels which cut into Kansas' lead, but the game was never really in doubt and the Jayhawks won 84-66 behind 25 points from Brandon Rush.
In the National Championship, the Jayhawks were pitted up against the long and athletic Memphis Tigers. Led by Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers had cruised through the tournament up to this point. In the championship game, both teams appeared relatively evenly matched throughout. Kansas led 33-28 at halftime, but Derrick Rose had a big second half to lead Memphis back to the point where they led 60-51 with 2:12 left.
However, Memphis missed free throws down the stretch which allowed Kansas to climb back in it. With 10.8 seconds left, Kansas trailed by three. Sherron Collins then rushed down the court for the Jayhawks and handed the ball off to Chalmers for a three-point shot, and Chalmers buried it, sending the National Championship to overtime for the first time since 1997.
In overtime, the Jayhawks would pull away and win 75-68, thank in large part to Darrell Arthur who delivered 20 points and 10 rebounds on the biggest possible stage. It was Kansas' fourth National Championship and the first for coach Bill Self.
How They Stack Up
This Jayhawks team has almost unrivaled depth, as they had the luxury of bringing players as talented as Collins, Aldrich and Kaun off the bench. Further, their front court is as deep as any front court in the past 15 years, as it was made up of a plethora of future NBA'ers and great college players.
On paper, the Jayhawks really had no weaknesses, apart from maybe a penchant for turnovers. However, the Jayhawks often went into long stretches were they would play uninspired, and sometimes downright dumb, basketball.
Collins, the primary backup PG, had issues with decision-making, and Chalmers and Robinson sometimes fell a bit too in love with their outside shots instead of feeding Arthur, Jackson and Aldrich in the post.
These pitfalls were what allowed Davidson to nearly knock the Jayhawks out in the Elite Eight, despite being badly overmatched from a talent standpoint and what practically got Kansas beat by Memphis in the title game.
Regardless, Kansas was able to overcome their periodic lapses and win the school's fourth national championship. Its sheer talent alone would keep them in any game against any other champion over the past 15 years.