The Kentucky Wildcats are officially the kings of college basketball. John Calipari's squad squashed a gutty but overmatched Kansas outfit by a score of 67-59 in the NCAA tournament title game in New Orleans on Monday. The 'Cats dominated the Jayhawks on defense, limiting their undermanned opponents to 36.1 percent shooting from the field while claiming a 39-34 edge in rebounding.
The win gives Calipari his first national championship in four career trips to the Final Four while avenging a loss to Bill Self and KU during his days at Memphis back in 2008.
Tweets of the Night
Kentucky's overwhelming talent proved to be too much for Kansas to overcome, though as ESPN's Jemele Hill pointed out, such an advantage hardly guarantees championship success:
This isn't an anti-Kentucky campaign, but a plea for perspective. Remember the '07 UCLA team had Westbrook, Collison and Kevin Love.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) April 3, 2012
Don't expect anyone from the state of Missouri to feel sorry for KU's loss, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill:
At least I raised my kids right. They are SCREAMING at me for even wanting Kansas to make it a game. Furious at my tweet/confession.— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) April 3, 2012
No recap of a UK game would be complete without a tweet about Anthony Davis' famous eyebrows:
If you connected Anthony Davis and Joe Flacco's eyebrows, you could circle the globe twice.— Happy Gilmore (@_Happy_Gilmore) April 3, 2012
Kudos to Kentucky for hanging on to win its eighth national title in school history, but let's not forget about this sick, spinning finish by Tyshawn Taylor to beat the halftime buzzer (apologies for the poor quality on the video):
Grades for Kentucky's Key Players
Anthony Davis: B+
Anthony Davis struggled to score from the field against the defense of Jeff Withey, but was so good in just about every other facet of the game that his performance can hardly be downgraded. The Naismith and Wooden Award winner managed just six points on 1-of-10 shooting from the field, but more than made up for it by stuffing the stat sheet with 16 rebounds, a title-game-record six blocks, five assists and three steals.
If ever there were an MOP-worthy performance by a player who failed to score in double figures, this was it.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: C+
An early bruising and battering may well have been too much for MKG to overcome. The "Diaper Dandy" chipped in 11 points, six rebounds and one assist, albeit while staying active on defense throughout.
Still, it's difficult not to imagine that slamming his shoulder on the floor during the first half didn't infringe on MKG's ability to impact the game to at least some extent.
Grades for Kansas' Key Players
Thomas Robinson: B
Thomas Robinson struggled to do much of anything against UK's interior defense, but still found a way to make an impact in the scoring column and on the boards. The unanimous All-American cobbled together yet another double-double, with 18 points and 17 rebounds, amidst the length of Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones.
Still, a 6-of-17 shooting performance in the biggest game of Robinson's life is too much to ignore, regardless of who's challenging the shots.
Tyshawn Taylor: B+
Tyshawn Taylor finally hit a three, after going 0-for-20 in his five previous tournament ties, but couldn't quite keep Kansas from falling flat against Kentucky in the end. The enigmatic senior tallied 19 points, four rebounds and three assists but accounted for five of KU's nine turnovers on the evening.
A tough way for Taylor's collegiate career to come to a close, to be sure, though it was all too fitting a performance for a kid who's so often played both sides of the coin during his time under Bill Self.
Deciding Factor: Block Party
Defense in the middle ruled the day between UK and KU. These two teams combined for a title-game-record 16 blocks, 10 of which were accounted for by the shot-blocking savvy of Anthony Davis and Jeff Withey.
All told, the Wildcats' superiority on swats serves as a proxy for just how difficult it was for Kansas to get much of anything done on the inside while the projected No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft was busy patrolling the paint. In the process, UK set the single-season NCAA record for blocked shots.
Game MVP: Doron Lamb
Anthony Davis deserves all the credit in the world for doing anything and everything in his power (outside of scoring in bunches) to carry Kentucky to the title.
That being said, I'd be remiss if I didn't give some serious props to Doron Lamb. The sweet-shooting sophomore led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor. His perimeter scoring proved to be the difference in the game, as it allowed the 'Cats to overcome Kansas' interior defense, while the Jayhawks struggled to get anything going against UK's on the other end of the court.
Which team will be better next season?
Both teams will enter the offseason with some serious questions going forward. Kentucky is likely to lose Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and (perhaps) Lamb, but will once again be bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in the country.
Kansas, on the other hand, will bid farewell to Taylor and (likely) Robinson while welcoming a solid crop of prep players to Lawrence.
In other words, expect these two blue bloods to be back in the national spotlight next March.