Final Four: Memphis, Kansas Roll to Title Game

Off The Paved RoadCorrespondent IApril 6, 2008

Memphis and Kansas will be playing for the national title tomorrow night after astonishing performances in their respective national semifinal games last night.

Memphis v. UCLA

It is very clear why UCLA lost this game. Darren Collison could in no way handle the Memphis guards, and Kevin Love did not get nearly enough touches in the second half.

Collison was manhandled all night by the larger, stronger Memphis guards, especially Derrick Rose. On the offensive end, Collison never got into any sort of rhythm, and the UCLA offense suffered for it. He eventually fouled out with two points, with about five minutes to play, on a stupid play he made strictly out of frustration.

When Memphis started to pull away in the second half, UCLA lost their poise and settled for taking ill-advised threes, rather than banging it inside with Kevin Love. Memphis' Taggert and Dorsey each had three fouls with more than 19 minutes to play, but UCLA never took advantage, and Love went very long stretches without an offensive touch of the ball.

Had UCLA kept their heads in the game, been patient, and worked the ball inside, they may have had a chance. Instead, they played right into Memphis' hands by launching threes, which led to long rebounds and fast break opportunities for Memphis.


Kansas v. North Carolina

Between the 15:00 and 5:00 minute marks of the first half, Kansas put on the most incredible defensive display of college basketball I have ever seen. The explosive UNC offense looked like a JV team; Kansas' weak-side and help defense was astonishing.

After a 25-2 run, it was 40-12, and it looked like the game was done. UNC, however, came back on a 15-2 run and went into the half trailing 44-27, which is at least manageable. In the second half, UNC continued the comeback, and you could see Kansas getting tight, getting worried, and missing shots.

Brandon Rush made a series of nice plays to turn back the tide, and then UNC seemed to deflate, allowing Kansas to roll to a comfortable victory. Still, UNC's comeback was almost as stunning as Kansas' dominate first half; credit the boys in Carolina blue for hanging tough after an absolute nightmare the first fifteen minutes of the game.

The key to the game was Kansas' defensive energy in the first half. They attacked, attacked, attacked. It seemed that every Carolina player had two defenders, and the number of help-side steals was amazing; it was like one of the highlight reel montages from "Hoosiers."

Despite UNC's comeback, it was simply too much to ask, and Kansas eventually pulled away after UNC had closed the gap to five points at one time, and then missed a series of threes down the stretch.

Kansas never let Hansbrough get going in this game. He had a few plays here and there, but he was swarmed all night. To wit, after he grabbed one offensive rebound, four Jayhawks swatted his put back, putting Hansbrough on his back hard. He earned the foul, but the Jayhawks made their point of allowing no easy baskets.

Of course, the Tall Tales of Tyler continued as one of his put back dunks only occurred because he was the last guy down the floor and happened to be running down the lane when the shot went up and missed. And, of course, Nantz and Packer gushed about his hustle.

It was a sad night for the over-hyped big white hopes, Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough, who were both overcome by faster, team-oriented defenses. Memphis and Kansas both played outstanding defense, and Memphis' fast break is unbelievable.

Derrick Rose has become an excellent decision-maker, which may prove to be the difference on Monday night. Too many times, Kansas made questionable decisions in transition, and they frequently jacked up ill-advised shots in the set offense. They can't afford to give Memphis any more opportunities to get off and running.

If Kansas' shot selection isn't improved on Monday night, Memphis can run away with the game, a 39-1 record, and a national title.