And so it ends. Another season in the books, and this time, we got an NCAA championship worthy of championship drama, with an overtime, lead changes, a buzzer beater, and a meltdown even! It had everything CBS wanted it to have to get the viewers captivated and watching their little boxes (well some of them are more than fifty inches wide).
Kansas: We are the Champions
Twenty years after Danny & The Miracles, we had Bill Self and the Comeback Kidz, powered by Danny Manning karma on the bench. Kansas was winning the first half, was losing the second half, but managed to stage an almost perfect comeback, send the game into overtime, and grab overtime by the throat and never look back!
This is good news for KU fans who have been waiting for twenty years for this moment, and can now perhaps bury the Roy Williams hatchet as they got their championship. Of course there will still be bitterness of "15 years of Roy, no championship" and "5 years of Self and a ring". But let's not forget that before March 2008, Bill Self had a sub-par March Madness performance, with two first-round exits and two Elite 8s, when he could have easily had a couple of Final Fours, and a minimum of Sweet 16 each year. But championship cures all.
Now the battle is keeping Self in place. Oklahoma State is perhaps willing to throw other people's money at Self, and if the ridiculous amounts mentioned are true, it pays to go home again! He would be getting six Lee Majors as a signing bonus! Who can say no to that? I know I wouldn't :)
And then there's the NBA Draft. Winning it all increases the perceived NBA stock value of potential draftees, and encourages them to either test the waters or jump all the way in, even though they have been on the bubble before the RING.
But regardless of all that, Kansas was about as deserving of a championship as any team this year, they had solid and consistent games throughout the year, and showed versatility and the ability to play fast and slow on offense, and handle fast and slow teams on defense. What else can you ask a team to do?
Memphis Half-empty: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Yes, the free throws were perhaps the most visible and the easiest to pin-point given the past free-throw woes of Memphis, but perhaps Karma was to blame for that. In 2003 the Roy Williams Jayhawks could have easily beaten the Syracuse Carmellos if it wasn't for horrible free throw shooting. So perhaps it was fate that an almost perfect free throw shooting night for the Self Jayhawks (shooting in the 60s), and a 60s performance by Memphis would have a major impact in the game.
But it wasn't just the free throws you see. A number of other factors could have easily given the game to the Memphis Tigers and prevent it from going into the overtime-meltdown. Here are some:
But the free throws could have reversed all that, as Memphis had four chances in a single possession and only needed to make two. CDR missed both, but Dozier (who Calipari called out before the game, and indeed had a very good game) stole the rebound and that allowed Derrick Rose to shoot free throws. He made one of two and the rest is history.
Memphis Half-full: Two plays away from a 40-0 season
If we step back from the dramatic and epic final game of Monday night, we can easily see that the Calipari Memphis Tigers were essentially two plays away from a 40-0 season. I don't think people realize how good of a season the Tigers had. Sure it was the mid-majorish Conference USA (now with Ben Braun cooking Rice), but being two possessions away from a 40-0 season is no small feat.
While not as dramatic as the Tark the Shark UNLV teams of 1990 and 1991, the Memphis Tigers will probably be remember a step below those teams. And speaking of the 1990 UNLV Running Rebels, they beat the Dookies by 30 points in the NCAA Final. And now you can buy that DVD from NCAA On Demand via Amazon.
Relive the Game!
You can relive the game online at NCAA.com/MMOD, or you can tune in to ESPN Classic tonight (Tuesday) at 11pm eastern (8pm pacific). You can also watch the game on CBS College Sports (CSTV) at 3am eastern (midnight pacific).