Blogging through the NCAA Championship Game

Blogging through the NCAA Championship Game
Apr 07, 2008, 09:22 pm
The end of the NCAA season is sadly upon us, as Memphis meets Kansas in the championship game to decide who the best team is in college basketball. Can Derrick Rose continue his incredible streak of play against two of the toughest defensive guards in the NCAA in Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers? Who will emerge in the battle of the top swingmen in the nation—Brandon Rush or Chris Douglas-Roberts? Will Darrell Arthur finally be able to put together a good game in the NCAA tournament? How will Joey Dorsey handle Kansas’ high-low and pick and roll play.

9:19- We were a little bit too preoccupied here in San Antonio to blog through the semi-finals on Saturday, but we’re back now in full force to recap this much anticipated matchup between Kansas and Memphis.

The Final Four hasn’t taught us too many new things so far. Derrick Rose continued to play the way we discussed in our piece last week —like the best point guard in college basketball and probably the best point guard prospect to come out since Chris Paul. We believe that ultimately it will come down to who is drafting first to decide who is the #1 overall pick, him or Beasley. We’d rather not make any rash decisions until we do more research on this subject.

Chris Douglas-Roberts also showed why we’ve been sky-high on him for a long time, and reiterated many of the things we wrote last week as well. After languishing in the middle of the 2nd round on the boards of most “draft experts” all season, the world seems to finally have come to their senses and realized what we figured out many moons ago-- that we’re talking about a big time NBA prospect with a big time “it” factor, and lots of game to go along with it.

Darren Collison came out extremely flat and will be going out on an extremely sour note if he indeed decides to declare for the draft as expected. Memphis’ entire game plan was focused on stopping him, and they succeeded in shutting him down in a big way. Our thoughts are very similar to how we felt after D.J. Augustin was similarly dismantled—his body of work from the entire season is still very strong, and Derrick Rose is going to make a LOT of point guards look that way over the next few years. We felt for most of the season that Collison is more of a solid backup/fringe starter than a sure-fire franchise point guard, and are definitely backing up a bit more in that direction.

Kevin Love didn’t look all that great, but there wasn’t a whole lot to see there that we didn’t already know. He’s solidified himself as a top 7-15 pick over the course of the season, and a 12 point, 9 rebound game (where he didn’t get all that many touches) wasn’t going to change that.

Ty Lawson played poorly and may be best suited returning to school. Tyler Hansbrough is Tyler Hansbrough. Brandon Rush played up to his full potential at the perfect time. Russell Westbrook went out on a very high note.

And we’re just about ready for the National Championship game…

9:33- Right off the bat, Kansas shows just how bothersome the length and toughness of their defensive line will be tonight, as Russell Robinson comes up with a block on Derrick Rose, and Mario Chalmers gets in the passing lanes to ignite the fast break. They are closing out the lane well on Rose’s drives, and are just as eager to get out in transition as Memphis is, which will make this game a very entertaining affair. Derrick Rose looks incredibly aggressive in the early going. Kansas’ guards are struggling badly so far, having a very difficult time getting into their offense. Darrell Arthur looks to have come out with a pulse here, which is a very positive thing. It’s 9-5 Memphis four minutes in.

9:42- Chris Douglas-Roberts is establishing himself as the go-to guy Memphis needs him to be, showing very little tentativeness or nervousness playing in the biggest game of his life to this point. He’s handling the ball in transition, taking the ball strong to the rack, getting to the free throw line, attempting shots from behind the arc, getting in the passing lanes, and of course showing his trademark one handed floater from 15 feet out. He’s matching up one on one with Brandon Rush, which is a real treat considering their similar size, draft projection, and role on their respective teams. CDR has 6 points 8 minutes in, and the score is 13-13 at the under-12 media timeout mark.

9:53- Kansas is playing Derrick Rose the way we thought UCLA would—backing off him and forcing him to shoot pull-up mid-range jumpers from 16-20 feet. He’s also having a difficult time getting into the paint, but Kansas is paying for that by leaving shooters open on the wing—which for now Memphis is taking advantage of. The Jayhawks are also getting back extremely well with their transition defense, and are limiting second opportunities on the offensive glass. Their offense seems to be flowing much better now—Derrick Rose just made a terrific left-handed drive that caught Chris Douglas-Roberts completely off guard, and Darrell Arthur is running the floor and looking extremely aggressive in the half-court. Joey Dorsey showed some superb athleticism by getting in the passing lanes and finishing off the one-man break with a big time dunk. At the under-8 timeout, it’s 24-21 Kansas. Darrell Arthur is leading the way for Kansas with 8 points.

10:05- Chris Douglas-Roberts came up really big when Memphis’ offense started looking stagnant. He took over the game for them over a two minute stretch here, taking the ball to the basket with his left hand, pulling up off the dribble from 18 feet, and stroking a 3-pointer. Even though his handle looks a bit loose at times, he never seems to be forcing the issue, which is what you would expect from such a prolific and aggressive slasher who nonetheless averages just 2.1 turnovers per game. He is clearly the best player on the floor so far, and has been responsible for half his team’s points at this juncture, with 13 points on 5-7 shooting. Derrick Rose seems to be showing his youth a bit in this half—as Kansas continues to do a phenomenal job keeping him out of the lane. Memphis’ offense isn’t flowing quite the way it has in past games—largely due to their inability to get out in transition the way they have in every tournament game since Mississippi State. We’re almost at half-time, and the score is tied at 28.

10:20- It’s half-time, and the score is 33-28 Kansas. This game has lived up to the hype and then some as far as we’re concerned, even if it hasn’t been the most high-scoring affair. CDR has been the man for Memphis as discussed with 13 points on 5-8 shooting, while their next leading scorer is Robert Dozier with 5. Derrick Rose is just 1-4 with 3 points, although he does have 4 assists to go along with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 turnovers. For Kansas, Darrell Arthur has 10 points—making this his first double-digit scoring effort since the Portland State blowout. Brandon Rush has been fairly impressive with some of the moves he’s made on the wing for Kansas, he has 6 points on 2-4 shooting. We’re looking forward to a great second half. Joey Dorsey does not have a single rebound and has been dominated defensively inside, and Derrick Rose will have to wake up if they are going to have a chance…

10:43- The second half is underway, and this game is being played at a furious pace. Derrick Rose is taking more responsibilities on himself in terms of driving into the paint, but with Kansas’ entire defense stepping up as soon as he makes a move, he’s been forced to look more for the pass, which he’s done fairly well so far. Darrell Arthur continues to establish himself inside, and there is still no sign of Joey Dorsey defensively or on the glass. He’s never been known as a big-game player, and this game has been no exception so far…its 39-38 Kansas with 15 minutes to go. The Jayhawk guards (especially Mario Chalmers) have looked a little bit sloppy with the ball here again, and Memphis is making them pay for that in transition.

10:57- Derrick Rose has clearly adapted himself to the defense Kansas is throwing at him, and is doing a much better job making quick, smart decisions with the ball in his hands. He’s finding ways to score (he just knocked down his first 3-pointer), but has been especially impressive as a distributor, by slashing apart Kansas’ defense and then finding the open man. Chris Douglas-Roberts and Brandon Rush have been a little bit quiet in the second half, but both have made at least one extremely impressive move to remind us of just talented they are. The defenses are really tightening up and this is clearly a high quality affair. It’s 49-47 with 8 minutes to go.

11:10- Derrick Rose made two questionable decisions pulling up sharply off the dribble from 18 feet out for very difficult contested shots—while flailing his body around the way he tends to do at times, which makes things very difficult on him. He came back on the next two possessions and redeemed himself, though, first with an awesome and-1 play, driving to the hoop, leaping and hanging in the air forever seemingly, taking contact, double pumping and banking it home in impossible fashion, with the foul. Then he went even further at the end of a shot-clock on an in-bounds play, fading away from just inside the arc and banking a shot incredibly off the glass at the buzzer. He’s taken over this game in a major way in the second half, and Memphis is now up by 7 points with 4 minutes to go. He has 15 points, after scoring just 3 in the first half.

11:23- Memphis has a commanding lead here with under two minutes left in this game—60-51. Kansas tried to send Robert Dozier to the free throw line for a one and one, but that backfired on them when he drained both. Kansas stepped up in a major way though, first with a jumper by Darrell Arthur, and then with a steal and 3-pointer by Sherron Collins, to cut the lead to 4. Darrell Arthur then again stepped up with a turnaround out of the post to cut the lead to 2, and Memphis will have to knock down some free throws if they want to pull this one out. There are just 50 seconds left here.

11:30- Memphis’ defense was huge down the stretch—Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier won’t get a lot of media publicity, but if they end up winning this game, they will have played huge roles in that. Chris Douglas-Roberts was not very clutch missing three straight free throws and also coming up empty on a drive to the hoop—he scored just 4 points in the second half after 13 in the first. Derrick Rose had a chance to make up for that at the line himself, but could only convert 1 of 2. An incredible 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers with two seconds left ended up sending this game to overtime…wow.

11:41- As much as we liked the hustle that Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson brought defensively and on the glass—what in the world were they thinking in overtime with the wild shots they were taking? Kansas seemed to be executing their offense perfectly, getting easy shot after easy shot after beautiful pick and roll plays, while Memphis looked completely unraveled and played very wildly. Kansas jumped ahead 69-63 in the first two minutes of overtime, capping off an 18-3 run on their part. This game is far from over—but Memphis needs to get some stops.

11:49- This game looks about over now, as Sherron Collins is stepping up to the line with about 18 seconds left to go and Kansas up 5. Derrick Rose looked exhausted and did not score a single point in overtime, and even though Chris Douglas-Roberts had all five of Memphis’ points, he missed a lot of shots as well, also clearly struggling from fatigue. At the end of the day, as if often the case in modern basketball, Memphis’ inability to hit free throws or outside shots ended up being their downfall.

11:54- Game over—Kansas 75-Memphis 68.

12:36- Darrell Arthur was the unlikely hero for the Jayhawks, coming up with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 10-13 shooting after playing lackluster basketball for the past two plus months. Some may get very excited about his play—he’s still a very long and athletic 6-9 power forward with terrific scoring instincts—but we have a very hard time forgetting about what we’ve witnessed over the past two months.

Brandon Rush was solid, although a bit on the quiet side. He had 12 points and 6 rebounds on 5-9 shooting. He’s done a nice job in this tournament showing how he projects as a very solid role player on the wing, primarily as a shooter, defender and in transition.

Derrick Rose (18 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 turnovers, 7-17 FG) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (22 points, 7-16 FG) showed sparks of why they are so highly regarded as draft prospects, but came up a bit empty down the stretch—clearly overwhelmed physically and mentally from battling for 40+ minutes. Neither helped or hurt themselves much here—which is a good thing considering where their stock is currently at. Joey Dorsey was an overwhelming disappointment with 6 points and just 2 rebounds—incredible considering that he’s amongst the top rebounders in the nation per minute.

NCAA Championship Game Final Recap

Stock Up:

Darrell Arthur

Stock Neutral:
Derrick Rose
Chris Douglas-Roberts
Brandon Rush
Mario Chalmers
Robert Dozier
Antonio Anderson
Darnell Jackson
Sasha Kaun
Sherron Collins

Stock Down:

Joey Dorsey

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