The odds favored Memphis. The angles won it for Kansas.
No, that's not angels. Although you'd wonder, given what the Jayhawks accomplished in seven minutes, twelve seconds, to go from down 60-51, to winning the national championship 75-68.
Most casual fans will point out that the Memphis Tigers lost the 2008 NCAA championship due to its free-throw shooting. Others, of course, could point to the Jayhawks' resilience and determination, particularly with 2:12 left and facing a nine-point deficit. But this game, and that final bucket, had much more than that going on.
The basketball odds were against the Jayhawks. Teams just don't win this way, really. They make desperate drives, desperate shots, cry about no-calls or wrong calls from the refs. But in the end, the game ends with their team losing more often than not.
In this one, angles defeated the odds. The angle of Sherron Collins's drive. The miniscule passing lane from Collins to Mario Chalmers. The bounce of a loose ball. Chalmer's shot trajectory. Derrick Rose's just-out-of-reach shot-block attempt. They all play into the could-haves, should-haves, and would-haves of the final score. It's those angles that make the sport great.
Let's walk through those final ticks on the clock.
Sherron Collins takes an inbounds pass from Darnell Jackson. Now, despite the urgency of the moment, he doesn't burst instantly, there's a hesitation. When he finally decides to get going after two seconds, he stutter-steps right, then scrambles like lightning to the left. This subtle hesitation and fake right creates an opening against the equally speedy Derrick Rose.
Collins creates an opening and an angle that gives the Jayhawks a chance. If he takes off quickly, as soon as he receives the inbounds pass, Rose might stay just ahead of him, anticipating an explosion of speed due to the time on the clock. But Collins hesitates. And it makes all the difference as Rose never fully catches up.
But that's only part of the story. As the sophomore point guard closes in on the three-point line, you can see just enough of a space between him and Rose where Collins could take that final shot. It would be tough. Long odds. He's running so fast that to pull up and put just the right touch on the shot would be impossible.
So Collins chooses not to lauch a shot. Instead, he arcs to his right along the three-point line, dribbles too hard and actually loses control of the ball, and then regains it just enough to two-hand shovel a pass to Chalmers, who's cutting behind him.
If that ball gets away from Collins, he's forever haunted for turning it over and wondering what could have happened.
But the ball stays with him enough to "pass" it to Chalmers. Odds are being defied every second of this final drive.
Chalmers takes the shovel pass too high to immediately put up an off-balance shot attempt, and brings it down to his hip for just one dribble. He has to do this, because without that one dribble he won't have a rhythm to his shot and Rose might easily block it, but he also doesn't have time for even a second dribble.
That one bounce also allows him to take one more step closer to the top of the key, a more natural angle to shoot from. This also keeps Rose just a step further away. We all know what happens next -- a high release on a nearly impossible three-pointer, a swish, and a tie game.
You and I could never make that shot.
Chalmers, on the other hand, is a 47% three-point shooter. But when you factor in the circumstances of this moment, in this game, add in the speed with which the final drive is playing out, add in the fact that twice the play could have died -- if Rose had stayed with Collins or if Collins had turned the ball over -- and you're probably looking at closer to a 17%, maybe a 7%, chance that Kansas wins.
But they do. Collins does get by Rose. He doesn't turn it over. Chalmers does handle the shovel pass. He does get enough space between himself and Rose. And he does make the shot.
Watch that play over and over again, Jayhawk fans.
Yes, Memphis missed seven free throws. But Sherron Collins, Mario Chalmers and the Kansas Jayhawks overcame long odds, benefited from crazy bounces and played incredible angles to win this game. And a little luck didn't hurt.