Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Memphis Attempts To Rebuild The Alamo With Bricks

Why does everyone from Jim Rome to NBCSports.com say that this NCAA Tournament was a boring letdown? Rome opened his show Tuesday by saying thank God the championship game was so good because this tournament stunk.

Perhaps I was watching a different Tournament. I seem to recall an opening round site in Tampa that saw two 12-seeds and two 13-seeds pull upsets. I am pretty sure a 10-seed was a very make-able shot away from knocking off the eventual champion in the Elite 8. Weren't there a good 5-10 buzzer-beaters in the first weekend alone? Yes, there were a lot of blowouts (a LOT of blowouts) in the second weekend, but wasn't this the first time in history that the top seeds all held serve and we got to see the absolute best of the best battle it out for the title? Didn't North Carolina come from 150 points down to take Kansas to the wire in the Final Four? Didn't Memphis shock everyone by not getting shocked out early like we all expected? Wasn't Stephen Curry's mom hot (not the mention the Texas, UCLA and Oregon cheerleaders).

The Lopez Sisters (oops, Lopez Brothers) were great. Augustine, Kevin Love's outlet passes and facial hair were epic, Memphis made their free throws right up until it mattered, three of the tallest four teams in history were in the Dance. Gonzaga vs. Davidson was spectacular. On the first Saturday morning, three games ended within 5 minutes of one another and all went down to the wire (thank God for the free viewing on CBS' website!). UConn choked (thank you USD!). Georgetown choked. Duke choked. Clemson and Vandy choked. OJ Mayo choked. Wisconsin almost shut out two teams. Marquette and Oregon battled it out for worst uniforms in Tourney history.

It was a fantastic Tournament punctuated with a wildly entertaining, though badly played Championship game. This could easily have been the worst final 2 minutes of a Championship game in history, which is exactly why it was so awesome.

For months, John Calipari has told us his kids would make their free throws when it counted. Texas tried to force them to make them, but the game was already 15 points by then. But with 2:12 to go in the Championship, Memphis held a 9-point lead, and Kansas went into hack-a-Tiger mode, and it worked to perfection. Memphis' best free throw shooters (and I use "best" liberally) missed shot after shot. Memphis should have lost it for missing so many free throws. Memphis should have lost it when Douglas-Roberts slammed the ball down, but no technical foul was called. Memphis should have lost it when they blew an inbounds play and Chalmers, channeling Jason Williams, stole it and threw it over his head as he flew out of bounds, then recovered and buried a 3. Memphis should have lost it when they let Kansas get a 3-point shot off at the end. Rose should have just tackled Chalmers before the shot and given two free throws. Memphis should have lost it when Calipari didn't call timeouts before Kansas last regulation possession or before Memphis'. Memphis should have lost it when Dorsey fouled out on a hand-check 30 feet from the hoop.

Kansas should have lost the game when they failed to box out and Memphis got a rebound on a missed free throw with a minute to go. Kansas should have lost the game when they got a rebound on a missed free throw and the kid sprinted down into double coverage and got a layup blocked, down two points with :20 to go. Kansas should have lost it for the karma of having Roy Williams wear a Kansas shirt (what was he thinking?). Kansas should have had to forfeit the game when Jim Nance said, "Rock chalk Championship," as time expired (that was the gem he had been sitting on?).

In the end Kansas won because they did less to blow it, and Chalmers made two spectacular plays in the last 30-seconds. But as sloppy as it was, it was awesome! And it proved one of the great maxims in sports is correct: You have to make your free throws.

James Worthy said after the game (and after "One Shining Moment") that this shows that you need to make 5 or 6 in a row before you can leave practice. 5 or 6!? I'd say 20 at least.

I generally block the memories of my NCAA Tourney picks because they generally don't go very well, but I am going on record as saying that I have now picked the last one consecutive champions. Between that streak and USD returning every member of this year's team and adding some Brazilian dude who supposedly is basically Jaime Chitwood, 2009 is my year, baby.

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