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Championship Recap: Choke City

Evidently the Kansas Jayhawks remembered the Alamo. Okay, probably not, but they remembered Memphis' poor foul shooting. In a championship gaffe that ranks up with Jean Van de Velde choking away the British Open, the Houston Oilers blowing a 4 TD lead in the second half of a playoff game, and the Houston Cougars upset loss to NC State, the Memphis Tigers were involved in one of the most memorable NCAA Championship games. And why? Because they got the yips at the foul line. The shanks, the laterals, the loser's cough. The beneficiaries were the Jayhawks.

In the last minute and 15 seconds, the Tigers would go on to miss 4-5 FT's including a front end of a one and one which allowed the heroic last second three from Chalmers to send the game into overtime. And with the only interior player that could bother Kansas inside Joey Dorsey on the bench after fouling out, the overtime outcome was all but academic. Kudos to the Jayhawks for maintaining contact with the Tigers to make foul shooting a factor, but I'm sorry, you cannot blow a nine point lead with two minutes to go and not be ridiculed. What a choke job, and a fitting end to the Memphis Tiger enigma.

Game Analysis

Kansas did an excellent job of moving the basketball around the perimeter to create post angles for Arthur, Jackson, and Kaun especially when Collins entered the game. His ability along with Rush to take the Tiger perimeter players off the dribble kept the Memphis wings honest and enabled the Jayhawks to run offense designed to enter the post.

Defensively, the Jayhawks stopped the ball and even got some steals when Memphis got into transition. Despite half a dozen early turnovers, the 'Hawks transition defense was sound and kept Memphis from getting many cheap buckets. The Tigers finished the game with just 4 points in transition.

In the half court setting, I thought Memphis was bothered by Kansas' perimeter athleticism, especially CDR. Rush's length and quickness bothered the nation's best scorer forcing him to make midrange shots and some tough 3's. While CDR seemed to get untracked in the 2nd half, his first half problems were the main reason Kansas was able to build a lead.

As much as CDR struggled in the first half, Rose seemed to be even more off his game, and most of the credit for that is Robinson and Collins. Both are great on ball defenders, but I thought Collin's presence and penetration on the offensive end forced Rose to expend a bunch of energy he's not used to expending. Couple that with the star guard's illness issues, and it's easy to see why Rose seemed gassed in the first twenty.

For most of the game the Jayhawks played very soft on the wings, even fooling Billy Packer into exclaiming ZONE!! when there wasn't one. Kansas would bunch up in the paint giving an initial zone look, but would follow cutters giving away man. It looked like they were enticing 3's from Anderson and CDR and lucky for the Tigers, they fell at a decent rate, 5-16 before overtime. Kansas also showed a little box and 1 on CDR, but Dozier and Taggert effectively attacked it and Kansas was back to a soft M2M.

Offensively, the Jayhawks stopped getting the ball inside in the 2nd half and much of that was due to Memphis turning up the pressure on the perimeter. Still, the body blows that the Jayhawk bigs delivered in the first half in terms of fouls and points ended up paying dividends in the second half putting Dorsey on the bench which nearly guaranteed a Kansas victory once the game went to OT.

Key Players

Rush. Eventhough he had just nine attempts, on offense, his defense and length really bothered CDR and kept him from going nuts.

Mario Chalmers, hit the shot of his life, but under the radar had 4 huge steals effectively eliminating Memphis' dribble hand-off technique as a means to drive the basketball.

Sherron Collins. If you did your homework you'd know Collins was an important piece in Kansas' effort to wear down Rose by keeping him honest on the defensive end. Collins' blow by's in the first half also set the stage for Kansas to be able to get the ball in the post because of the attention helpside defense had to pay to his driving ability. It's no surprise that Collins played 34 minutes which is the most he's played in a game all year.

Darrel Arthur. Gave the Kansas fans the mismatch they had hoped for in the frontcourt. Credit him for simply outclassing Robert Dozier and putting tremendous pressure on the Memphis D.

The Goats

CDR. His late game yips will go down with Syracuse's Derrick Coleman and Orlando's Nick Anderson as the biggest charity stripe choke jobs in basketball history. He could have been called for a technical for his antics with 10 seconds left when he slammed the basketball 30 feet in the air. I'm guessing Chris Webber was rooting for the T.

Joey Dorsey. You'll have a hard time finding a bigger thug during final four weekend. Two rebounds in the Championship game and zero points in the semifinal game. Karma's a bitch Joey.

In any event, it was a great finish to a terrific season. I hope y'all enjoyed talking basketball as much as I did discussing it with you. I learned a bunch and had a ton of fun doing it. Thanks.