Tuesday, April 8, 2008
You have to foul!
I got the Final Four right, so that was good, but once my prediction for the outcome of the finale - UNC over UCLA - crashed and burned on Saturday, I came into Monday night not really caring who won the national championship. Like most people this time of year, my alliegance's in the tournament lie with my bracket, not any particular team. That's how I base my rooting interest.
So when the time came, I got to just sit back and enjoy a thrilling game between the two best teams in college basketball, no strings attatched. The only thing I was hoping for was a thrilling finish, and I was obliged.
A few observations:
1. All season long, there were two concerns/questions about this Memphis team's ability/inability to win the whole damn 'chip that kept getting raised: 1) Have they played tough enough competition? and 2) Will their poor free throw shooting come back to haunt them? Well, they answered the first one in resounding fashion by thrashing Michigan St., Texas, and UCLA by a combined 51 points in the three games leading up to the finale. And it appeared that they had answered the second one, too: 80 of 89 (89.8 percent). CDR (34 of 40) and Derrick Rose (24 0f 27) were beginning to resemble Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups with their big-game swagger. Of course, as Billy Packer pointed out last night, it's a lot easier to make them when you're up by 20. And true indeed, last night, in a much more competitive ballgame, with the lights shining their brightest, poor foul shooting came back and bit them in the ass: up 62-58 with 1:15 left in regulation, CDR missed the front end of a one-and-one. 59 seconds later, with the score now 62-60, he missed two more. Six seconds later, Rose missed the first of two before sinking the second, but the damage had already been done. The door had been left ajar. Which leads us into our next observation...
2. I think it should become a rule, really: If you're up by three with between ten and three seconds to go, you have to foul before the three is attempted. You have to. If you don't, you forfeit your next possession. Okay, not really. But you have to foul. Obviously, there's a chance the guy will throw up a wild attempt the second he realizes he's being fouled intentionally and the ref will give him three free throws, but I don't think I've ever seen that happen before. If the ref realizes you're fouling intentionally to prevent a game-tying three, he's not going to give the guy three foul shots. Besides, in this case, Rose could have fouled Sherron Collins the second he touched the ball, in the backcourt, 90 feet away from the basket. But he didn't. And now, this is the story.
Of course, as Simmons pointed out today, the argument can be made that Memphis is the only team that shouldn't have fouled in that situation because it would stop the clock and they would have to make free-throws on the other end. But I suppose if you can't make foul shots down the stretch in a hotly contested game, you really don't deserve to win. That's what championship teams do, right? Come through in pressure situations.
3. Rose finished with 18 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals in the National Championship - and somehow, it seemed like a subpar game. You know you're a superstar when that happpens. But yeah, I thought Collins did an excellent job on him, especially in that first half. Darren Collison is long and lean; Drew Neitzel and D.J. Augustine are stronger, but none of them are as strong as the squatty (I love that word) Collins, who's a 5-11, 205 pound bundle of power. He was more adept to handle Rose than those other three.
4. Did Kansas win it or did Memphis lose it? I think Memphis lost it in regulation and Kansas won it in overtime. The answer is: both.
5. It always kills me when a college player hits a big-time shot in a big-time game, like Mario Chalmers did last night. The balls these kids have are incredible. I'm in college; I wish I knew what it was like to be so icy.
6. What is this Kansas team's legacy? They remind me of that '98 Kentucky team with Scott Padgett and Nazr Mohammed; I don't know if any of the players on this Kansas team will be anything more than role players at the next level. (As much as I like Brandon Rush, he reminds me of Devean George.) Doesn't matter. They had a deep, athletic collection of excellent college players who sacraficed individuals numbers for the sake of the team, embraced their roles and never strayed from the all-for-one, one-for-all concept. A fabulous college team, even though I must admit I wasn't drinking the Kansas Kool-Aid until two days ago when they destroyed Carolina.
7. Coach Self, you've got it made now. You just won Kansas their first national title in 20 years, so the Lawrence faithful won't hold it against you if you take the cash and dash. $10 million for the first year?!?! Are they really offering you $10 million for the first year?!?!
Anyways, spock, talk, Mohawk and all that good stuff. Congratulations, fellas. You deserve it.