Monday, April 7, 2008

65 to 2...

After a crazy month of March & part of early April, the madness is finally at its end. A tournament that saw two #2 seeds fall in the second record, and a #10 seed fall a basket short of the Final Four, came down to the four #1 seeds fighting for a chance at the title. The two teams to shine in the Final Four were Kansas (36-3) and Memphis (38-1). Right off the bat they announced their presence with authority. They wanted it more than North Carolina & UCLA; that's all there was to it. This brings us to the final game. A game that will decide who the best team in college basketball is for the 2007-08 season. So who's it going to be?

Both teams are well-deserving of their spot in the title game, but one team seems to have emerged as the best in the tournament. That team is Memphis. While Kansas, as I mentioned a few days ago, is the best "team" in college basketball, Memphis is just too talented. Kansas has no one superstar, but they have a bunch of players that know their role, play great defense, and perform with excellence within the system. Memphis, however, has proven all year they are the best. Aside from one slip in a loss against Tennessee, Memphis is 38-0 on the year. They dominated their weak conference, as they should, but additionally handled the likes of USC, Arizona, & Georgetown in the regular season as well. In the tournament, aside from a nail-biter against Mississippi State, Memphis has cruised to the title game, winning their last three games by 15 or more.

After their loss to Tennessee in early February, Memphis has responded with a 12 game win-streak, silencing the criticisms of analysts that claimed they were incapable of winning the "big game". Well, now they've reached the biggest game of their careers. Memphis finally has the chance to show everyone that although Conference USA is a mid-major conference, the team at the top of that conference is just as good as any school from any power conference.

Over the last few games, Memphis has stepped up their free throw shooting significantly. They've shot 80.8% over the last 3 games after they ranked third worst in the nation at 58.3% on the season & shot 55.2% after the first two rounds of the tournament. Their inability to shoot free throws all year long, however, should not be overlooked. When a national championship is on the line, the charity stripe feels much farther away from the hoop and the basket looks much smaller for most players. Poor shooting from the line and poor shooting from the outside could cost Memphis the game.

Lastly, just a few quick things to note. Kansas is a great team. They have the components to win a national championship. If Chalmers and company can shut down Rose & Douglas-Roberts, the championship is theirs for the taking. They came out playing unbelievable against North Carolina, and then faded in the second half before a late surge at the end. I can't count Kansas out of it. Especially with the inconsistency Memphis has shown shooting from the outside and from the free throw line in the past years. Kansas has a great defense and a great offense. UCLA, known for its defense, couldn't shut down the Tigers on Saturday night. However, UCLA lacks the offense Kansas has when Rush and them are shooting well. You can't count out Kansas. If there's one thing for sure, it is going to be a great game.

My Prediction:
Memphis 79 - Kansas 76

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