Monday, April 7, 2008
By Trashtalk Superstar
Tonight, Memphis and Kansas will play for the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship. The game will tip off in little over an hour.
So what are Drive and Dish's thoughts on tonight's game?
For what it's worth, this is one of the toughest championship games to prognosticate in recent memory. Last year's Championship game was pretty easy to predict: Although both Ohio State and Florida had outstanding talent, Florida was the defending National Champion and Billy Donovan's team still had all the key players from its 2006 Championship team. Ohio State was talented, but the Buckeyes' best players were freshmen. And it usually takes experience to win championships. So a Florida win was easy to predict in last year's Championship game.
But Memphis and Kansas appear to be a toss up.
As alluded to, few freshmen are able to lead their teams to championships. And freshmen who have done so can probably be counted on one hand. What's more, the few freshmen who have led their teams to NCAA Championships (Carmello Anthony, Michael Jordan?) have played for teams that had talented upperclassmen surrounding them.
But Memphis' freshman point guard, Derrick Rose, doesn't play like any freshman point guard that I've seen (and that includes Ohio State's sensational freshman PG, Mike Conley, from last year). He plays with the poise and savvy of a 5th year senior. And he's as special a talent as the college game has seen in years.
What's more, Rose is surrounded by talented upperclassmen.
Memphis' back court tandem of Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts may be without a peer in the college game. But Kansas' back court absolutely stymied North Carolina's much-hyped back court duo of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington.
And it was Kansas' backup point guard, Sherron Collins, who did the most damage to North Carolina in the second half of Saturday night's Final Four Semifinal game.
Plus, Kansas has multiple point guards. And that makes them extremely dangerous.
As Drive and Dish noted before Saturday's games, Memphis has a collection of incredibly athletic, long, and skilled players on the perimeter. And although Kansas can counter with their deep, versatile back court and with Brandon Rush (himself a long, athletic, talented wing), Memphis should have an advantage on the perimeter.
Memphis' back court is simply bigger and more talented ... which is really saying something, considering how good Kansas' back court is.
And I'd be surprised if Kansas will be able to slow Derrick Rose.
Strategically, I think Kansas needs to take away the dribble drive from Memphis' guards. Memphis employs an almost revolutionary wide open offense, which takes its cue from International basketball. Unlike traditional college (continuity) offenses, Memphis' offense is not predicated on using ball screens to create shots. Rather, the Tigers push the tempo and try to beat their opponents off the dribble. Then they either finish at the rim, or dish to a cutter/kick it out to a perimeter shooter.
Memphis looks to get points via the play from which this website derives its name -- the drive and dish.
And they've got the ideal point guard to run that kind of offense -- Rose.
So, although Kansas beat North Carolina by pushing the tempo and running the Tar Heels out of the Alamo Dome, I think that Kansas will try to slow Memphis' running game and force the Tigers to run half-court sets.
Then Bill Self's Jayhawks will have to contain Memphis' dribble drive ... which will be easier said than done. However, if Kansas can manage to contain Memphis, the Jayhawks might be able to take Memphis out of its game--and force the Tigers to shoot jump shots.
While Memphis has the advantage on the perimeter, Kansas should have the advantage in the paint. Kansas has the bigger front line. And make no mistake: that's a significant advantage in in the Jayhawks' favor. Remember, Memphis' big man, Joey Dorsey, struggled against UCLA (despite the Tigers' overall dominance in that game). And although I expect Dorsey to come out with a chip on his shoulder tonight, I also expect Kansas to try to feed the ball into the low post.
Unless Dorsey plays like a man possessed, I don't think that Memphis' bigs will match up well against Kansas' front line.
So who do I think will win?
As I said before, this one is tough to prognosticate. I thought that, by virtue of having all four #1 seeds advance to the Final Four, this would prove to be one of the better Final Fours in recent history. And I couldn't have been more wrong.
Thus far, the entire NCAA Tournament has been characterized by one blowout after another. And the Elite 8 and Final Four weren't any more interesting ... which I really didn't see coming.
So, although this may seem like a cop-out, I really don't know what to expect in tonight's Championship game.
If it's a close game, Memphis' poor free throw shooting percentage could ultimately be their downfall. But poor free throw shooting hasn't been a factor in any of Memphis' games in this Tournament, to date. Plus, the Tigers have actually shot better from the charity stripe in the Tournament than they did during the regular season.
But I'll leave you with this: One of the best basketball minds that I personally know has been saying all season long that Kansas is the most talented team in the country, and that he expects the Jayhawks to win the National Championship. And for the record, this guy is a basketball coach and he starred on one of the most famous Final Four/Championship teams in college basketball history. I put a lot of stock in whatever he says.
And he's been talking Kansas up for some time.
So although I can see it going either way, my best guess would be Kansas if I had to pick the winner of tonight's game (but I still don't see how they'll stop Memphis' Rose and Douglas-Roberts).
But unlike Saturday night, I won't be surprised if either team wins tonight.