Blogging Through the Elite Eight (Part Two)

Blogging Through the Elite Eight (Part Two)
Mar 30, 2008, 02:16 pm
The last participants in next week’s NCAA Final Four in San Antonio will be decided today, as Texas takes on Memphis and Kansas faces Davidson. Texas-Memphis is especially sweet for draft aficionados like ourselves, as it will showcase arguably the top two points guards in this year’s draft—Derrick Rose and D.J. Augustin, going head to head. Stephen Curry will face the toughest test of his young career so far, as Kansas will surely throw a plethora of defenders at him in an attempt to derail what has become one of the top NCAA tournament performances of the last 10 years.

2:15- We’re just about to tipoff in Houston. Some things to look for: How will Joey Dorsey handle D.J. Augustin’s pick and rolls and the perimeter shooting of Connor Atchley? Will Derrick Rose’s height and length be too much for Augustin to handle on the other end of the floor? Will Chris Douglas Roberts take advantage of the 3-4 inches he will enjoy in his matchup today? How will one of the top rebounding big men in the countr0y in Damion James fare against possibly the best?

2:29- Right off the bat we see a lot of the things we wanted to look for in our preview. Derrick Rose took D.J. Augustin down to the mid-post, where his height was just too much for him to handle, even though he did everything humanly possible to try and contest his shot. Joey Dorsey is having a hard time with Texas’ pick and rolls early on, but he’s compensating with his work on the offensive glass. Memphis is applying some full court-pressure to try and keep the ball out of Augustin’s hands in their early offense, but Justin Mason looks more than comfortable bringing the ball up the floor and then giving it up. He’s also doing great work getting in the passing lanes and crashing the offensive glass, getting Texas extra possessions and easy baskets. Chris Douglas-Roberts used his height advantage to get off a 3-pointer and also found gap in the middle of Texas’ zone for a short –jumper. He has 7 early points. Derrick Rose looks exquisite in the early going as well, particularly in transition. Memphis is up 13-8 four minutes in. This game has been super up-tempo and very entertaining.

2:35- D.J. Augustin is having a very difficult time maneuvering in traffic and getting his shot off against the length and athleticism of Memphis’ guards, even airballing a 3-pointer just now. Derrick Rose continues to make a case for himself to be the #1 overall pick with his phenomenal play. He scored four more points (and is 4/4 from the field now) with an excellent drive and a 17 foot pull-up jumper. Chris Douglas-Roberts continues to excel as well, getting in the passing lanes and taking the ball strong to the basket again, which will earn him two more free throws. Memphis has jumped ahead 17-8 now, 6 minutes in.

2:42- Missed 3-pointers by Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts have given Texas a chance to get back into this game now that the first wave of substitutions is coming in. Derrick Rose gambled badly on a steal in transition and gave Augustin a chance to get himself going at the free throw line—he’s 0-3 and looks very much out of sync. It’s 20-13 Memphis at the under-12 timeout. Justin Mason’s 7 points have been huge for Texas in the early going, although Connor Atchley’s two early fouls could prove very damaging to the style of basketball they want to play.

2:55- Some people thought my statement about Derrick Rose possibly being “the most athletic point guard we’ve ever evaluated at the college level” might have been a bit over the top back in November…You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that will disagree now that he’s completely broken out of his shell in March. Rose has put together an unbelievable highlight reel of plays in the first 12 minutes of this game alone, be it with his dunks in transition, his steals, blocks, rebounds, or the unselfish passes/lobs he’s made in the open floor. No disrespect to Michael Beasley here, but the #1 pick might not be as much of a foregone conclusion as one thought…Texas is completely on their heels at the moment, down 16 points already, 29-13. D.J. Augustin has been completely shut down thus far, scoring just 2 points at the free throw line, and committing four turnovers. Every shot he’s taken from the perimeter has been contested, and every drive challenged at the rim, with 3-4 being blocked. This could end up being a damaging performance for him as far as his NBA draft stock is concerned, as it shows how much his limited size could hurt him against NBA caliber athletes. The Stanford guards he went up against the other night were more of the mid-major caliber in all honesty. Rose has 10 points and 4 assists 12 minutes in, while Douglas-Roberts has added 11. Joey Dorsey is dominating Damion James on the glass, and A.J. Abrams can’t seem to get a shot off against Antonio Anderson. This is pretty amazing.

3:03- 34-20 is the score now. Damion James is on the bench too, after picking up his second foul as well. Memphis is going inside to get production for their big men, and they are producing. Memphis is getting almost all of their points in the paint, while Texas has been forced to settle for outside jumpers. It will take a monumental effort in the second half for Texas to dig itself out of this hole. Their zone defense has been completely ineffective thus far.

3:11- Texas did a great job “weathering the storm” so to speak—more like a hurricane actually—by scoring the last 6 points of the half and make this a more manageable 11 point game at the half—39-28. They have some big adjustments to make at the half and will need their point guard D.J. Augustin to do a complete 180 in his play to have any chance in this game, after he went just 1-7 from the field to start off, with 4 turnovers. Memphis’ intensity level dropped off in the last five minutes, and it will be interesting to see if they continue to let up in the second half like they did against Michigan State.

3:41- Damion James is off to a hot start with six points in the first 6 minutes seconds to get Texas back in this game. Rick Barnes knows he will need him so it’s a good decision to get him going. He rewarded him by grabbing two offensive rebounds, his first of the game. D.J. Augustin continues to be aggressive, which is a good sign for Texas, even though he’s gotten mixed results. Derrick Rose added to his highlight reel with an amazing double-pump slam in traffic to keep Texas at bay, and a beautiful one handed floater later on. His explosiveness and body control will likely put him in the top percentile in the NBA right off the bat in those categories. Texas started the half in a box and one on Chris Douglas-Roberts, which is a big surprise. Memphis does look a little bit passive, so we’ll see how John Calipari adjusts. With 13 minutes to go, Texas is still down 12 after Antonio Anderson banked in a miraculous three and Joey Dorsey scored on an and-1off a post entry pass from Rose. Texas is playing much better, but Memphis looks very focused. Derrick Rose now has 14 points, 7 assists and just one turnover, on 7-9 shooting.

3:55- Texas made an initial surge early in the half to bring the lead down to 5, but Memphis has responded with phenomenal defense and shot-selection to build it back up to 19 and possibly close the door on the Longhorns’ final four aspirations. Chris Douglas-Roberts has been showing how unselfish of a player he is with some terrific drive and dish plays all game long, while D.J. Augustin continues to struggle to finish at the rim and looks completely overwhelmed physically. He is 3-14 from the field now. Memphis is up 16 points, 59-43, with 8 minutes to go.

4:10- Memphis continues to hold Texas at bay with their excellent defense and play of their perimeter weapons. Texas is going to try and make this a free throw shooting contest, but down 19 points, they have far too much ground to make up with 4 minutes to go.

4:41- Memphis had no problem knocking down enough free throws to put Texas away—the final score was 85-67. They were 12-14 from the line when Texas started fouling, and finished 29-35, or 83%, to close out the game. Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose (9 assists, 1 turnover, 6 rebounds) were the two big beneficiaries, they finished with 25 and 21 points respectively. D.J. Augustin’s final line was 16 points, 2 assists and 4 turnovers on 4-18 shooting. How much will this game hurt him in the long run? One of the more level-headed NBA scouts we talked to already thought that “his body of work is still strong” and that there is “still a long ways to go with workouts.”

5:03- Kansas-Davidson kicks off in about five minutes, and there a few keys to this game that we’ll be looking for. The first is obviously how Kansas is going to defend Stephen Curry. Wisconsin decided not to really give him a great deal of extra attention until the second half, where it may have been too late already, and Kansas will not want to fall into the same trap. Look for Mario Chalmers to be his primary defender, with possibly even the very long and tall Brandon Rush seeing minutes on him. They should try some gimmick defenses too, even though Davidson has other capable players (like Jason Richards) who can make quick decisions and big shots too. Kansas’ biggest advantage is the size and skill of their post players. Darrell Arthur will have to come out focused, and Darnell Jackson needs to play better than he has recently. No one on Davidson’s roster can defend Brandon Rush outside either, so getting him good looks will be a big priority as well. Can Richards handle the intense ball-pressure that Kansas inevitably puts on him? That will be a huge key, because if Davidson can’t get into their offense, even having five Stephen Curry’s on the court won’t help them.

5:13- A very slow start for both teams…the score is still 2-2 four minutes in. Brandon Rush has gotten two good looks from behind the arc, but struggled to connect on either attempt. Davidson is keeping Kansas’ post players in check by doubling on every post-entry pass, and Kansas still hasn’t found a way to impose their will on the tempo of this game. They are playing strong defense on the other end of the floor, though, forcing Stephen Curry into a tough NBA range 3-pointer, his only attempt so far, which he missed. We’ll see what happens as this game continues and the players loosen up.

5:23- 9 minutes in, Kansas’ offense is still sputtering, with just 6 points so far. Davidson’s offense isn’t much better, having scored 9 points. Both teams’ go-to guys came out cold to start off—Brandon Rush is 1-5 and Stephen Curry is 0-5. Kansas’ interior defense has been pretty solid so far, and they’ve been a little bit unlucky offensively.

5:34- The lid seems to come off for both teams, and we just saw a flurry of scoring that brought the score to 17-16 Davidson with eight minutes left in the half. Stephen Curry just reeled off eight straight effortless points for Davidson, two lightning quick 3-pointers and a nifty left-handed layup after being face-guarded by Mario Chalmers. Sasha Kaun has six points and 5 rebounds for Kansas early. Mario Chalmers also has six.

5:40- Stephen Curry just showed his sneaky ability to lull his defender to sleep and then get past him with a quick hesitation move, only to finish with a pretty floater. He then proceeded to create his own shot and pull-up off the dribble from mid-range with Brandon Rush draped all over him. He’s taken 11 shots already, and just added an excellent assist on an inbounds play. After starting 0/5, he’s hit 5 of his next six shots, for 12 points. Mario Chalmers has been tremendous for Kansas on the other end, he’s hit 4/5 shots for 11 points. The score is tied 23-23 with 5 minutes to go in the first half.

6:00- Kansas’ turnovers and Brandon Rush’s cold shooting has kept Davidson in this game, along with Stephen Curry’s heroics. Kansas has 9 turnovers, Rush is just 2-8 so far and Curry has 15 points. Davidson’s offense looks bad, but they are keeping their mistakes to a minimum and playing strong enough defense on the other end of the floor to stay just two points behind, 30-28 at the half. Hopefully things will pick up a bit in the second, because this has not been a very well played game so far.

6:27- Stephen Curry has come out on fire once again in the second half, as Brandon Rush has been unable to stay with him as he jukes his way all over the court with his off the ball movement. Curry has used screens masterfully to knock down two 3-pointers so far, giving him 21 points. Kansas has gone to a box and one defense to try and limit Curry here. Rush hasn’t been any better offensively either—continuing to come up completely flat with his jumper, even if he continues to shoot it every time the opportunity arises. He’s 2/11 on the game. Sasha Kaun is keeping Kansas in the game here. He’s been very good for the last month or so, and that has continued into the elite eight. He made a great post-move to start things off, using a drop-step and finishing with his left hand, and then elevating for an alleyoop slam plus the foul. He just picked up his 3rd personal, though. It’s 35-35 with 16 minutes to go.

6:38- Brandon Rush is back on both ends of the floor. He hit his first 3-pointer of the game, which seemed to open things up for him quite a bit, and then scored on an and-1 play on a short bank-shot off the glass. Kansas continues to go with the box and one strategy, with Rush in charge of guarding Stephen Curry, and he has managed to limit him from getting any clean looks. Davidson’s offense is struggling badly now, and Kansas has opened up a five point lead, 43-38.

6:50- An 11-2 run by Davidson proved that they are more than just a one-man show, and also forced Kansas out of their box and one defense, to try and give some extra attention to Bryant Barr, who has killed them in the last few minutes with three consecutive 3-pointers. Kansas’ offense is looking tentative now, as Davidson has begun to absolutely smother them. The score is 51-47 Davidson with 8 minutes to go.

6:57- Kansas’ big men have started to establish themselves inside, with Sasha Kaun and Darrell Arthur going to work with their back to the basket on consecutive possessions. Kaun is 5/5 from the field today, but has struggled at times keeping Andrew Lovedale off the offensive glass. Stephen Curry hasn’t been much of a factor in the last 10 minutes, Kansas continues to rotate defenders on him—Sherron Collins is now taking his turn and is doing a good job. Collins has been able to give Kansas a spark offensively as well instead of the extremely passive Russell Robinson—he gives them an element as a shooter and shot-creator off the bounce that they don’t really have. This game is probably going down to the last possession. It’s 56-53 Kansas with 3:31 to go.

7:10- Even though Brandon Rush deserves credit for the way he harassed Stephen Curry into contested jump-shots down the stretch, there is no doubt that Curry managed to get a few decent looks in the closing minutes of the game, which he wasn’t able to convert. As good a shooter as he is, and as clutch as he’s been, at some point he was bound to miss a few shots…That happened at a bad time for Davidson, though, and it looks like their Cinderella run might be over…Kansas is up 59-53 with 58 seconds to go.

7:11- I may have spoke too soon…Kansas failed to rebound a loose ball after a missed free throw by Davidson, and on the ensuing in-bounds they managed to get a clean look for—guess who—which he of course swished. It’s now 59-57 with 54 seconds. Kansas needs to score on this next possession if they want to avoid giving the best shooter in the NCAA a chance to win this game.

7:16- Kansas couldn’t get a good shot—Sherron Collins’ contested 3-pointer at the end of the shot-clock wasn’t what they drew up, and now Stephen Curry gets another chance…Davidson had Stephen Curry bring the ball up and set a pick and roll for him, Kansas wisely switched, and Curry had to give the ball up to Jason Richards, who settled for a 35-foot 3-pointer that went wide left. Kansas wins 59-57.

7:25- Stephen Curry finished with 25 points on 9-25 shooting. Jason Richards had 7 points, 8 assists, 5 turnovers on 3-10 shooting. Sasha Kaun and Mario Chalmers were Kansas’ top scorers with 13 points. Brandon Rush had 12 points on 4-14 shooting.

Elite Eight Day Two Final Recap:

Stock Up:

Derrick Rose (Memphis)
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis)
Sasha Kaun (Kansas)
Joey Dorsey (Memphis)
Antonio Anderson (Memphis)

Stock Neutral:

Stephen Curry (Davidson)
Brandon Rush (Kansas)
Mario Chalmers (Kansas)

Stock Down:

D.J. Augustin (Texas)
Darrell Arthur (Kansas)
Damion James (Texas)
Connor Atchley (Texas)

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