It was fitting that the college basketball season ended this way: two powerhouses playing for all the marbles.
Kansas and Memphis both seemed like destiny’s darlings as they squared off in what will be remembered as one of the most thrilling championship games yet.
The Jayhawks hadn’t won an NCAA championship in 20 years. The Tigers had never won one.
Two No. 1 seeds, two stellar seasons, two dominant performances over the other No. 1 seeds. Two high-scoring teams, two teams that don’t give up points, and two teams with completely different approaches to the game.
It would all make for a dramatic evening. But no one could have predicted what would take place.
Kansas came out looking prepared and disciplined as they executed their game plan by pounding the ball inside to Darrel Arthur, Darnell Jackson, and Sasha Kaun.
Dorsey and company looked over-matched and frustrated, as they could not run and get easy transition baskets.
Chris Douglas-Roberts kept Memphis in the game by showing off his assortment of moves to Brandon Rush and carrying the scoring load. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose let the game come to him.
As the game went on, both teams’ flaws became more and more evident.
The Memphis defense failed at crucial times as they didn’t communicate with each other on screens and back picks. They were late rotating over when Kansas went over the top with their bigs.
The Jayhawks couldn’t hit a three-point shot if their lives depended on it. Rush disappeared, and when the Tigers turned it up in the second half it was Kansas that seemed dazed and confused.
To Bill Self’s credit, he tried everything, including gimmick zone defenses to stem the tide. Still, the game was slipping away. He decided to take CDR out of the equation by employing a box and one defense, but Rose and company exploited it.
Memphis was set to win, and Rose was ready to become the Most Outstanding Player. What transpired in the last two minutes of the game was downright strange.
Kansas got motivated and dug deep within to pull off one of the most amazing comebacks in NCAA history.
Make no mistake—Kansas snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. They stayed focused, disciplined, and never believed they were out of the game. That is a testament to their coach.
I believe Memphis relaxed mentally and physically in the last two minutes of the game and took it for granted that they would win, coach included. That set off a series of events that would all add up to a loss.
If just one of those mistakes hadn't happened, Memphis would have won.
If Dorsey hadn't committed a needless foul on the perimeter, if Memphis hadn’t mishandled an inbounds pass, if Roberts had made just one out of four free throws. And then there was the shot—we could go on and on.
This was Kansas’ time, and they deserve everything that comes with it.
They were the team of destiny this year. Everything fell right for them in this game, and they took advantage of it.
I will not say that Memphis choked. As a matter of fact I will congratulate them for a great season (38 wins, more than any other team in history) and a great NCAA tournament.
We should celebrate Kansas for their stubborn grit, their determination, and their belief that they could do it. But we should also salute Memphis.
Rather than folding after they got down, they came back, so they have nothing to be ashamed of in my book. The Tigers are part of what made this game so special.
Many want to bury Memphis and John Calipari for not getting the job done, but only one team can say they did at the end of the day.
Our student athletes at some point must come to grips with the disappointment of losing. In the long run it will actually help them and their development as people.
This is not the last disappointment they will experience. This loss may go a long way in helping them to deal with future frustrations.
We hold these kids to such lofty standards sometimes and lift them up so high, we forget they are kids. The praise and encouragement we once had for them is then replaced by words like “choke,” “fail,” “disappoint,” and the like when they don’t perform how we feel they should.
Unequalled excellence is something that both teams sought in this game. 75-68 in overtime sounds like excellence to me.
The three-pointer to tie the game by Mario Chalmers will never be forgotten, and the Kansas fans are in heaven.
Memphis put forth an excellent effort as well, and I will not play the blame game. That is not good for anyone and it doesn’t set a good example for the players.
If this experience causes the Memphis players and coaches alike to make sure this doesn’t happen to them again in basketball or in life, then they will have turned it into a positive.
Congratulations to both teams. Give yourselves a hand.
Two great teams, two great seasons.