There is only one Monday I look forward to all year and already things are off to a fantastic start. The Starbucks system crashed just as I was about to pay for my daily vanilla americano. They tried a few things, made a few calls, then looked at me and said 'Go ahead, this one's on us'.
After two kick ass - if not quite competitive - games on Saturday I am primed and pumped for tonight's final. Two sprinting, athletic, defensively oppressive teams are going head to head and anyone that says they know who will win is full of shit. This is one game that could go to either team. It's a toss up. I'll give my two cents below, but it really won't mean anything.
First things first. Let's check out the games that were.
Memphis - UCLA: This is my official apology to the Tigers for doubting them. In my defense, though, they entered the tournament shooting free throws at about 50% or below as a team. Who saw them shooting at a high 70% clip during the most important part of the season? Not that it mattered. They've been swarming teams defensively and running them out of the game. The Michigan State game really opened my eyes for how disruptive their quick hands and feet could be.
UCLA had one chance and that was to slow the game to a crawl and pound it inside to Love and hopefully neutralize the quickness and agility of Memphis. Yeah right. They did manage to keep the score down a bit, but they just didn't have the fire power to stay with them. Especially Rose, who seemed to get to the basket any time he wanted. The Bruins had nobody to guard him.
Sidenote from this game: Everyone keeps talking about how UCLA made it to the Final Four, but couldn't get into the finals for the third year in a row. Somehow this is being viewed as a negative, but let's keep things in perspective. The Bruins have been one of the four best teams in all of college basketball for three years in a row. While it's disappointing they haven't won the whole thing yet, that's an impressive achievement. Three Final Fours in a row??!!
Kansas - UNC: During the first half of this game Kansas put on one of the most dominant displays of basketball I have seen at any level. The 42-12 score in the first half didn't even come close to defining how over whelmed the Tarheels were in the first half. UNC might as well have been a Community College for how effective they were. Kansas players seemed to have their hands on every pass Carolina made and turned it into an easy basket on the other end. Even when UNC did have a shot, it was sent into the first row of the crowd. It was unbelievable!! I was actually thinking that this Kansas team could be one of the best college teams ever assembled.
Then the second half started and the illusion was shattered. Kansas started launching ill advised three pointers, making bad passes and Carolina crawled back into the game (with some help - see below). I was beside myself until I remembered it was Roy Williams on the other side and knew UNC would never pull it out. Williams has somehow escaped unscathed these last few years, but he really has botched what are some power house teams. Sure, he's won a championship, but considering the amount of talent he's had on both his Kansas and UNC teams, he certainly is in the process of cementing his reputation as someone who does the least with the most.
Sidenote on this game: While I realize it's human nature to feel bad for a team getting killed, I was very disturbed when the refs in this game started calling everything in UNC's favor. Including a ridiculous charging call on Chalmers when the defender's foot wasn't even in place yet. Sure, a lot of them are judgement calls, but it's tough to swallow when every single call goes against the team that's up by 17 for a solid 5-6 minutes of game time.
So then there were two and now the question is who will take it all?
Answer: I don't have a fucking clue. Memphis has always had the advantage of being the most athletic team on the court, but I'm not sure that's the case tonight. With Rush, Chalmers, Robinson, Collins and even Aldrich (don't laugh, he may be a white 6'10 dude, but he's got quick hands and feet. Just ask UNC) Kansas is the one team that can matchup well with the Tigers. Not only that, but they have a distinct size advantage with Aldrich and Kahn. I'd like to see Self play both these guys at the same time early in the first half to see if it wreaks havoc on Memphis' slashing style of play and keep them from fast breaking off defensive rebounds.
The problem for Kansas is the waves of players Memphis can throw at them. I may dislike Calipari, but he's had a vision for what he wanted his team to look like and recruited accordingly. The players up and down his bench can sprint and fly and are conditioned to do so for an entire game. Kansas' starting five may be able to keep up, but will their bench be able to keep up with Memphis' bench?
I'll be rooting for Kansas for the sole reason we may never get another blog entry from Hammen if they lose. Other than that, I don't have an interest in who wins this game. I'm more excited that these two teams mirror each other perfectly, present matchup possibilities only dreamt of (Rush vs Douglas-Roberts; Chalmers vs Rose), and have the same flaws (both teams have a tendency to lose focus at times).
But, the real reason I'm so psyched for this game is it has the potential to be one of the most exciting, high flying-est, high scoring-est, ally oopiest games in college history. Don't be surprised if each team has 30 or more points off fast breaks alone. This is going to be basketball on crystal meth.
Prediction? Fine, you want a prediction. Kansas wins by 6. They matchup well and present their own problems for Memphis which hasn't really been tested, yet. Besides, in close games like this, one team's Achilles heal always - and I mean ALWAYS - will show itself at the least opportune time. For Memphis that is their free throw shooting. I'm not convinced this has been miraculously cured.
There is one wild card in this game that Bobby Knight brought up on ESPN. He mentioned that it's possible that Kansas spent an exorbitant amount of energy in the UNC game Saturday night and they may come out sluggish against Memphis. While I think the point is valid, the adrenaline from being in the game should be more than enough to get their energy level up. I would be more concerned about the latter stages of the game. Once the excitement of the game wears off and the Jayhawks have been running to keep up with Memphis, will they hit the wall? Regardless of the UNC game's outcome, did Kansas expend too much energy in that game?
Stay tuned. Tonight, 9pm, CBS Sports. Good times, my friends, good times.....
Today's distraction: As if today weren't special enough, it is also the anniversary of something near and dear to my heart. If I weren't a soulless, unfeeling bastard, I might actually cry.