Neb. (AP)- Mario Chalmers was his team's litmus test Thursday. When the
Kansas guard was on, so were the Jayhawks. When he got sloppy during a
meaningless second half, his team did, too.
Chalmers knows he must be on in the later rounds for Kansas. The last
time he stumbled in the tournament, the Jayhawks were eliminated.
Chalmers, who had 16 points, four assists and three steals in an 85-61
rout of Portland State, said he's trying to do more for a No. 1 seed
that would be disappointed with any finish short of a national
"Everybody's trying to focus on Brandon (Rush), trying to keep it out of
the paint, trying to contain our bigs," Chalmers said. "When they do, it
leaves the 3-point line wide open."
Chalmers floundered in his last two games of the tournament a year ago.
He made two field goals against Southern Illinois in the round of 16,
then was held to two points in 33 minutes in a loss to UCLA that cost
the Jayhawks a trip to the Final Four.
was tough, but last year is over and done with and it's a new year,"
10 first-half points and sparked the Jayhawks to a big lead over
Portland State. His dunk with just under 8 minutes left in the period
made it 31-18.
the junior didn't score after the break until he made a free throw
midway through the second half.
Although Portland State never seriously challenged Kansas' lead, the
16th-seeded Vikings were outscored in the second half by just a single
kind of puttered around," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I think there's
a lot of reasons why that could occur, especially during the NCAA
Chalmers, who put up 30 points in the Big 12 championship game against
Texas, said it was less important for him to have a good game than for
his team to play well together.
just have to stay focused the whole 40 minutes and apply it to the next
game," he said.
Jayhawks advanced to face UNLV in the second round Saturday. They'll
have some new fans from the West Coast cheering them on.
told B-Rush to win it for us so it doesn't look so bad," Portland
State's Dupree Lucas said with a laugh. "Those guys were cool. It wasn't
like they were out there trash talking or anything."
led all the way against the overmatched Vikings (23-10), who got in the
65 team field by winning the Big Sky tournament (video).
Portland State competed hard and had a few moments they'll remember for
a lifetime- such as Deonte Huff stuffing Jackson's shot on the inside-
but the 22 point underdogs simply didn't have enough weapons to cope
with the depth and skill of a Big 12 powerhouse.
Vikings' predicament was opitomized by their best player, 5-foot-6
Jeremiah Dominguex. He was smothered by Kansas' bigger guards and had
trouble even getting a look at the basket. He was overmatched at the
defensive end as well, at one point finding himself matched up with
Rush, who's a foot taller and 55 pounds heavier.
Dominguez did lead the Portland State with 13 points, but Alex
Tiefenthaler was his only teammate in double figures with 10. The
Vikings shot just 38 percent (21 of 55) from the field and turned it
over 16 times.
is definitely an experience I'll cherish," said Tiefenthaler, a
a first for me and hopefully not a last. We want to come back next year
...hopefully get a higher seed and get a win, maybe two."
Neb. (AP)- Kansas made sure Blowout City lived up to its name one last
Capping off two days of mismatches in Omaha, the top-seeded Jayhawks
pulled away from UNLV in the second half and romped to a 75-56 victory
Saturday at the NCAA's Midwest Regional, another emphatic team effort by
a deep, talented group out to win the proud program's first national
title in 20 years.
Chalmers led the way with 17 points, but he had plenty of help. Russell
Robinson scored 13, Brandon Rush 12, Sherron Collins 10, Darrell Arthur
9 and Darnell Jackson 8.
luck trying to find the right player to stop.
the drama was in Tampa and elsewhere- everything in Nebraska went pretty
much according to plan.
State was the only lower-seeded team to win in six games, and there was
no chance for a buzzer-beater unless the NCAA changed the rules to allow
a 14-point shot.
closest margin in Omaha was 13, and the Jayhawks (33-3) sure did their
part to make sure everyone could get a head start on their partying in
the Old Market. They blew out No. 16 Portland State 85-61 in the opener,
then handled the eighth-seeded Runnin' Rebels (27-8) with nearly as much
ease to reach the round of 16 for the second year in a row.
first half was close- Kansas led by only five midway through- but that
was just putting off the inevitable. The Runnin' Rebels barely had
enough personnel to finish the game. With only 10 players in uniform to
begin with, they had one starter, Joe Darger, foul out with more than 9
1/2 minutes remaining; another, Rene Rougeau, quickly followed him to
the bench with his fifth.
offense basically consisted of 6-footer Wink Adams driving the lane
against the taller Jayhawks, looking to draw a foul and hit the free
throws. He scored 25 points- hitting 15 of 17 at the line- but Curtis
Terry was the only other teammate in double figures with 12.
(AP)- Signs pointed to a blowout early.
Villanova star Scottie Reynolds shot an airball and a brick on the
slammed four alley-oop passes, including one off the backboard, in the
opening 9 minutes. The top-seeded Jayhawks kept rolling, making the
12th-seeded Wildcats look like they didn’t belong on Ford Field’s
elevated hardwood in a 72-57 victory in a Midwest Regional semifinal on
you beat Kansas?
don’t have that answer after what you just saw,” Villanova coach Jay
Brandon Rush scored 16 points, Russell Robinson had 15 and Mario
Chalmers added 14 points for the Jayhawks, who toyed with Villanova by
throwing alley-oop passes as if they were routine and making 3-pointers
like they were layups.
(34-3) will be a huge favorite to end 10th seeded Davidson’s
stay in the NCAA tournament and advance to the Final Four for the first
time since 2003.
coach Bill Self is in the regional finals for the fifth time- at three
schools- since 2000 and is a win away from no longer being regarded as
the best coach without a Final Four on his resume.
don’t think it would matter to us who we’re playing in the Elite 8
game,” Self said. “I think it will be a focused effort. If we do not
perform well, which I don’t believe will happen, it would not be because
of the name of their school. It would be because they
whipped us or forced us to get out of character. But it won’t be because
of lack of preparation or lack of respect.”
Villanova (22-13) simply could not keep up with the Jayhawks’ speed,
size and athletic ability all of which combined to give them a 41-22
lead at halftime.
3’s hurt us early,” Wright said. “When a team that good is making those
kind of shots, it is going to be tough. I didn’t think we were that bad
defensively in the first half, they are just a very good team that is
playing very well right now.”
some NCAA tournament games that are decided in the final moments, this
one seemed over soon after it started.
took control early with a 14-2 run and didn’t need to break a sweat to
keep its cushion.
Reynolds was scoreless until making a 3-pointer midway through the first
half, a shot that started an 11-2 burst that pulled Villanova within
seven points with just under 7 minutes left.
Kansas held the Wildcats to only one point and no field goals the rest
of the half and opened up a 19-point lead at the break.
Villanova needed Reynolds to score at least 20 points as he had in each
of his previous three NCAA tournament games, but he didn’t come close
against swarming guards and helping big men.
were trying to get the ball out of my hands,” Reynolds said. “And if I
drove it, they would bring over a big.”
Reynolds was just 2-for-9 in the first half and finished 4-for-13 for 11
points, leading his offensively challenged team in scoring on a night
when none of its starters had an assist.
thought Russell was the player of the game,” Self said. “Russell made
shots early, which is always a bonus.”
Cunningham and Shane Clark each scored 10 for the Wildcats.
(AP)- Bill Self's hair was sopping wet. And that snazzy gray suit he'd
been wearing was gone, replaced by boring- but dry- warmups.
apologize for my attire, but our team thought we just won a football
bowl game in the locker room," the Kansas coach said. "They got me
pretty good with the water jug. But needless to say, I'm proud, happy,
many different levels.
Sweet-shooting Stephen Curry was covered so tightly he couldn't get a
shot off in the closing seconds, leaving him no choice but to dish to
Jason Richards, Davidson's next-best option. But Richards' 25-footer
from the top of the key thudded off the backboard, allowing Kansas to
escape with a 59-57 victory Sunday that put all four No. 1 seeds in the
Final Four for the first time (video).
after coming oh, so close, so many other times, Self is finally on his
way to the Final Four.
feels good just for him," Brandon Rush said. "He's been stuck in the
Elite Eight for the last few years. This feels good just to make that
push into the Final Four for him."
had taken three different schools to the regional finals only to come up
short four different times, including last year with the Jayhawks. He'd
been saddled with the dreaded "best coach never to make a Final Four
tag," and he acknowledged Saturday that the failing crossed his mind at
least once a day.
no more. These Jayhawks (35-3) were too talented, too powerful, too
experienced to be denied, and they simply wore lovable, little Davidson
down at the end.
had an opportunity to win," Curry said. "So fatigue is a factor, but we
fought through to the best of our abilities and still had a shot to win
it at the end."
the son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, turned the NCAA
tournament into his own little party, scoring at will with his
silky-smooth shot and carrying Davidson to one improbable victory after
another. And he looked as if he might do it again in the Midwest
looking exhausted for much of the second half, he drilled a 3-pointer
from NBA range to cut Kansas' lead to 59-57 with 54 seconds left. When
Kansas' Sherron Collins missed with 21 seconds left, the 10th-seeded
Wildcats got one last chance and of course they gave the ball to Curry.
the right guy- the only guy- to take the biggest shot of the NCAA
tournament. But there was no shot to be had.
"Kansas had four guards out there and they just switched. It kind of
defeated the purpose of the play," he said. "I gave them a pump fake to
try to get a look, but I was off-balance when he fell down."
bright red numbers on the clock got dangerously close to zero, all he
could do was the pass the ball and watch as Richards' desperation try
thudded off the backboard.
kind of had a feeling in my heart that it wasn't going in because the
way he shot it. It looked like he was leaning to the left a little bit,"
Kansas guard Mario Chalmers said. "When I turned back, I saw it hit the
backboard. I was just relieved."
Richards dropped to his back at midcourt while the Jayhawks exhaled and
me, I was on both knees," Self said. "You picture the way you win a big
game like that, it would be you make a shot, you celebrate or something
happens and you're able to go congratulate all your coaches and players.
This was not one of those deals. I just wanted to make sure that I
hurried up and shook hands and the officials left the court so they
couldn't put any time back on the clock."
who became just the fourth player to hit the 30-point mark in his first
four NCAA tournament games, finished with 25 on 9-for-25 shooting and
was picked Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional.
Barr was the only other Davidson player in double figures, scoring all
11 of his points in the second half.
loss snapped Davidson's 25-game winning streak, longest in the nation.
Chalmers and Sasha Kaun each scored 13 for Kansas and Rush added 12.
hurts a lot to get this far, be so close to get to the Final Four,"
Curry said. ''I'm definitely proud of what we've accomplished and what
we're about and what we've just proven all year....But it's going to
ANTONIO (AP)- What Roy Williams needed was a comeback for the ages. What
he got was a disappointing dose of payback- a chance to see what it
feels like when Kansas breaks his heart.
Jayhawks left their old coach in the dust Saturday night, getting 25
points and seven rebounds from Brandon Rush to stave off a ferocious
comeback by North Carolina for an 84-66 victory in the national
Trailing 40-12 late in the first half, Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington
and the Tar Heels made a valiant rally, getting to within five points
with nine minutes left, but ran out of steam in their effort to pull off
the biggest Final Four comeback ever.
never been so embarrassed in my life,” said Tar Heel guard Marcus
the Jayhawks will play Memphis, an earlier 78-63 winner over UCLA, in
Monday’s championship game at the Alamodome.
moved within a win of its first national championship since 1988, the
year before Williams began his storied 15-year tenure in Lawrence- one
that ended when he jilted Kansas for his alma mater.
Hansbrough had 17 points and nine rebounds for North Carolina (36-3)- a
typically gutsy effort- but his next move will be to decide whether to
come back for his senior season.
has more pressing things to deal with.
know we’ve got another step to take Monday night,” Sherron Collins said.
“It’s going to be a great matchup. They play fast, we play fast.”
Collins had two assists, a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws during
the decisive stretch that saw the Jayhawks (36-3) pad that five-point
lead back to 15 and send the Tar Heels into true desperation mode.
Williams stood stoically as the clock ticked down, arms folded, nothing
much left he could do. Tears usually come pretty quickly after the final
buzzer of the season for him, and this season ended one game short of
where many thought it might.
had a good year, but I don’t think anybody’s goal here was to be one of
the top four teams in the country,” Hansbrough said. “It’s to be the top
team. I’m frustrated with that.”
Williams got outcoached in this one, especially at the beginning,
finding no solution for Kansas’ somewhat surprising strategy of dumping
the ball inside to Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Cole Aldrich.
the impressive comeback, the final stats painted a picture of Kansas
domination. The Jayhawks shot 53 percent from the floor and held the
nation’s second-leading offense to 35 percent. They had nine more
rebounds, 10 more assists, six more blocks.
that may have helped prove Williams’ theory, as he tried to deflect all
the talk of himself this week: That the game would be decided by the
Jayhawks were simply better.
played great early,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I mean, that’s as
good as we could play.”
Self who replaced Williams after the coach famously bolted for North
Carolina, and this was the first chance to see them go against each
other with their new teams- and on the game’s biggest stage.
coached Kansas to the lead. Williams coaxed his team back in it.
for all North Carolina’s effort, this game was lost early. The basket
looked as big as the Alamo for the Jayhawks, who made 12 of their first
16 shots and went on an 18-0 run for a 33-10 lead with 9:31 left.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels went a stunning 9:03 without a basket. No team
has overcome a deficit bigger than 22 at the Final Four, and it was
around the time the lead was 40-12 that none other than Billy Packer,
the CBS analyst, said the game was over.
Carolina turned this into controlled chaos over the first 10 minutes of
the second half, altering Kansas shots and making pretty much everything
they threw up- including a 3-pointer by Ellington (18 points) with 9:20
left that made it 58-53 and had the Tar Heel fans in a frenzy.
Throughout the rally, Self called time-out after time-out- KU fans often
criticized Williams for not doing the same under similar circumstances-
and eventually, North Carolina cooled and Kansas ran away.
Picking a Jayhawks star was as easy as closing your eyes and pointing to
a name on the stat sheet.
Aldrich stood out, swatting three shots in the first half and altering
more after coming off the bench en route to his eight point,
seven-rebound night. His highlight came after KU missed just its fifth
shot of the game, more than 10 minutes into the first half, and he
outgrappled Hansbrough for a rebound that resulted in two free throws.
That made it 33-10.
had three buckets and an assist in the first five minutes to start the
runaway. Russell Robinson had five points, four assists, three steals
and three turnovers over the first 20 minutes- what coach wouldn’t love
list went on, and die-hard KU fans might have deemed it their team’s
best moment since the 2003 Final Four, when Nick Collison helped
dismantle Marquette 94-61 in the semifinals.
nights later, the Jayhawks lost to Syracuse in the finals. With talk
swirling that Williams would be headed to Tobacco Road, he said on live
TV that he “could give a (bleep) about North Carolina right now.”
ball floated through the air, its pebbled surface spinning softly, as
serene and peaceful as a space capsule in a low-earth orbit. At 10:29
p.m. CDT on Monday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, the fate of a
college basketball season rested on Kansas guard Mario Chalmers- or, to
be more precise, on his last-ditch three-pointer, a make-or-break heave
with 2.1 seconds left that would either send the NCAA title game into
overtime or give Memphis, clinging to a 63-60 lead, its first
championship in school history. In his mind's eye Chalmers had been here
before. As a four-year-old in Anchorage he and his father, Ronnie, would
set up a makeshift basketball arena in their family room, complete with
two Nerf basketball goals, couches for team benches and even space for
Mario's mother, Almarie, to perform The Star-Spangled Banner. Mario
would often skip to the finish and (three, two, one!) launch a bomb with
the championship on the line. In those days, as on Monday night, Super
Mario was money. "As soon as it left my hand it felt good, and I knew it
was going in," Chalmers said after his miraculous trey from the top of
the key had completed KU's rise from a nine-point abyss with 2:12 left
in regulation. "I just waited for it to hit the net." (video)
Jayhawks' 75-68 overtime victory was a rare fantastic finish in college
basketball's crown jewel, the most riveting final since Connecticut
upset Duke 77-74 in 1999, and it showcased the remarkable balance of
Kansas, the only Final Four team not to have an All-America (video).
If the hero wasn't Chalmers, the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player,
it was forward Darrell Arthur, who overpowered Tigers forward Joey
Dorsey with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Or swingman Brandon Rush, whose
two overtime buckets crushed Memphis's hopes. Or maybe the entire Kansas
defense, which slowed the Tigers' dribble-drive motion attack and held
them to just 40.3% shooting.
Memphis had a hand in its own demise. All season long the Tigers had
claimed that their woeful 60.7% free throw shooting wouldn't be their
undoing when the games counted most, and sure enough, the Tigers had
made 50 of their last 59 foul shots entering Monday's final. But against
Kansas their confidence finally failed them at the worst possible
moment. Guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, Memphis's two
best players, sank only 1 of 5 from the line in the final 1:15 of
regulation, opening the door for the Jayhawks' comeback. "I let them
down by missing those free throws," said Douglas-Roberts, who apologized
to the team in the locker room and blamed himself for the loss.
hadn't acted like a freshman all night, scoring 18 points and leading a
second-half charge, but with that 63-60 lead he cracked, failing to heed
coach John Calipari's instructions to foul Kansas point guard Sherron
Collins before he could dish to Chalmers for the equalizing
three-pointer. Afterward Rose was inconsolable, crying outside the
locker room as the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the team's unofficial
spiritual adviser, held him up. "Don't look like a freshman crying. It
looks pitiful," Jackson whispered into Rose's left ear. "Smile through
your tears and speak above your pain."
other side the emotion was just as raw, courtesy of Chalmers's
last-second lifeline. "It will probably be," said Jayhawks coach Bill
Self, "the biggest shot ever made in Kansas history."
presenting Kansas with its third NCAA basketball championship, the
45-year-old Self laid to rest any remaining doubts that he couldn't win
the Big One. But it was the Jayhawks' stomach-churning 59-57 defeat of
10th-seeded Davidson to reach San Antonio- Self's first Elite Eight
victory in five tries at three schools- that liberated not just the
coach but also his entire team from paralyzing Self-doubt. "I believe in
some weird way that the Elite Eight game was the best thing that could
have happened for us," Self said last week during a quiet moment in his
hotel aerie overlooking the Alamodome. "We had to play out of our
comfort zone, and we didn't play great, but we found a way to win. It
was a relief for our guys. Now they could just go have fun and play."
time Davidson guard Jason Richards's last-second shot that would have
won the game caromed off the backboard, Self had fallen to his knees,
bowled over by the weight of the moment. Survival, not celebration, was
the prevailing sensation. But Self was a new man once he returned home
that night with his wife, Cindy, and their children, Lauren, 17, and
Tyler, 14. At 2 a.m. the family gathered on the sofa of the sprawling
basement game room and watched the replay of the victory with a new
outlook. "Our house had been full for weeks, and now it was just us,"
Cindy said later. "Everybody was so excited, but Bill was the only one
awake at the end. The rest of us were zonked out. I think it was 3:30
when he finally said, 'O.K., everybody, go to bed.'"
Kansas prepared for the Final Four, memories of their long journey to
get there came flooding back for Bill and Cindy, sweethearts since their
days as Oklahoma State students. At a tip-off event in San Antonio last
Thursday night, Bill sat onstage with the other three head coaches and
recalled how in 1984 he injured his knee before his senior season while
working at the Kansas basketball camp run by then Jayhawks coach Larry
Brown. "Coach Brown felt terrible," said Self, who was a four-year
letterman at guard for OSU, "and the worse he felt, the more I limped."
When Brown asked Self what he could do to repay him, Self's reply was
direct: Hire me as your graduate assistant next year. And Brown did,
tapping Self to replace a departing GA named John Calipari.
most troublesome memory for Self was one from the end of his second
season at Kansas, in 2005, after the Jayhawks had been upset in the
first round of the NCAAs by Bucknell. A few weeks later he sat in a
private room at a St. Louis restaurant watching the previous team he had
coached, Illinois, lose in the national title game to North Carolina,
which was coached by his predecessor at Kansas, Roy Williams. "I was
happy that Illinois was there, but I was also, to be quite candid,
jealous," Self says. "Because those were the guys my staff had put
together. Then you had the Kansas contingent that was jealous because
Roy was playing and we were not. It was the most frustrating time for me
as a coach that didn't have anything to do with winning or losing."
would be another first-round defeat, to Bradley, the next year followed
by a loss in the Elite Eight last season, this time as a No. 1 seed to
UCLA. Says Cindy, "It was like, Ugh, are we going to get over this
seemed as though Self had yet another high-talent, low-mettle team
destined for an early March exit when the Jayhawks lost for the third
time in seven games, on Feb. 23 at 13-12 Oklahoma State. At a time when
the coach had hoped his players would close ranks- in addition to the
late-season stumble, both senior forward Darnell Jackson's cousin and
senior guard Rodrick Stewart's adopted brother had died on Feb. 20 after
having been shot in unrelated incidents- they failed to do so. "When's
the last time you had a players-only meeting?" Self asked his team after
the game. "Have you talked about how you're going to rally Darnell and
Rod?" The players shook their heads. "Well," Self replied, "I thought
you guys cared."
seniors organized a private team meal at Henry T's, Jackson's favorite
restaurant, where they expressed support for their teammates and allowed
each one to air his grievances. "We really laid down in that [Oklahoma
State] game," guard Russell Robinson said last week, "and we were
pointing the finger and not taking responsibility for our own mistakes."
Thanks to the return of senior leadership, Self said in San Antonio,
"this has been a totally different team."
nobody would have predicted the no-that's-not-a-misprint score line with
6:48 left in the first half of last Saturday's second semifinal: Kansas
40, North Carolina 12. While the major theme heading into the game had
been Williams's first game against Kansas since he had famously departed
Lawrence in 2003, the story instead was the Jayhawks' suffocating
defense, which nearly made the proud Tar Heels cry UNCle. "Good defense
should beat good offense any day," Self said last Thursday, and Kansas
provided plenty of evidence. The Jayhawks sent waves of double teams at
national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, forced point guard Ty
Lawson into uncharacteristic mistakes and slowed North Carolina's
vaunted secondary break.
all that defensive mastery- the Tar Heels shot only 35.8% from the
field- it didn't hurt that Kansas hit 53.1% of its shots. And while UNC
roared back, cutting the lead to 54-50 midway through the second half,
KU finished with a 30-16 run for a comfortable 84-66 victory. The upset
of the tournament's overall top seed was a powerful validation for the
Jayhawks' contention that they play better on the rare occasions when
they're underdogs. Whether that's an admirable trait in a champion is
debatable, but Kansas clearly benefited from avoiding the favorite's tag
in an unprecedented Final Four that had all the No. 1 seeds. "There was
so much pressure on us to get here, but now we've made it and all the
pressure's off," Collins said after the North Carolina game.
that case, no Jayhawk showed more grace under (no) pressure on Saturday
than Rush, whose level of aggressiveness is monitored as closely back
home as the winter wheat harvests. "Brandon can get comfortable, and I
don't think that's the best way he needs to play," said Self. "I think
he's the best wing in the country, but my message to him is the same all
the time: attack, attack, attack." Asked before the semifinal if he was
tired of the questions about his game intensity, Rush said that he
didn't mind at all. "I love being questioned about it," he said,
"because I think I've got a pretty good answer to it." He certainly did
against the Tar Heels, scoring 10 points in the Jayhawks' 25-2
first-half run and finishing with a game-high 25.
Kansas fans were partying on the San Antonio Riverwalk at 1 a.m. on
Sunday, the coaching staff (Self, assistants Joe Dooley, Danny Manning
and Kurtis Townsend, and Ronnie Chalmers, who is the team's director of
basketball operations) was assembling in room 2124 at the downtown
Hilton for a Memphis game-planning session. In a fitting nod to KU's
last national title team, the scouting report for Memphis was prepared
by Manning- the Sunflower State legend whose 31 points and 18 rebounds
against Oklahoma had led the squad known as Danny and the Miracles to
the championship 20 years earlier. After a 15-year NBA career, Manning
joined Self's staff in 2003, starting as the director of student-athlete
development and working his way up to full-time assistant this season.
many college basketball greats have had the humility to return to their
alma mater and pay their dues under a new regime? Manning shied away
from media requests all season, directing the spotlight to the players,
but his impact on the team was undeniable. It was Manning's focus on
footwork and positioning that helped turn Jackson into one of the
nation's most improved frontcourt players this season. And it was
Manning's embodiment of past glory that gave the Jayhawks added
incentive. "He has a big influence because he has been here before, and
he has won it all," said Rush last week. "He's always remembering the
speeches he gave in the big games."
wee hours of Sunday morning, though, Manning was just another
bleary-eyed assistant breaking down the Memphis tendencies as video
clips from the Tigers' NCAA tournament games flashed on the plasma
screen in front of the Kansas coaches. "Fast-break points, points in the
paint- that's the bottom line," Manning said, noting his biggest concerns
about Memphis's hard-driving attack. For his part, Self was floored by
the Tigers' ascendant freshman point guard, Derrick Rose, marveling at
his quick first step and the way he used his chiseled 6'3", 190-pound
body to overwhelm UCLA's Darren Collison for 25 points in the first
semifinal on Saturday. "When did he get to be such a good shooter?" Self
asked, adding that the 5'11" Collins might have a hard time matching up
against Memphis's taller guards despite his competitive desire to do so.
the Kansas coaches also saw weaknesses they could exploit. Mississippi
State had used an effective 2-3 zone to slow the pace and clog the
driving lanes in Memphis's hard-fought 77-74 second-round victory. And
while Rose and Douglas-Roberts would command plenty of help defense to
stop their penetration, Memphis's outside shooters- guards Antonio
Anderson, Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack- had been inconsistent from
three-point range all season. "We have to make them shoot [outside]
shots, cut off the lanes and make it look crowded [inside]," Self said,
sounding a lot like Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, whose willingness to
let Memphis shoot (and miss) threes had led to the Tigers' only loss of
the season before Monday night.
the late-night session wasn't all about X's and O's. The
defense-obsessed Self would occasionally stop and blurt out his
continued astonishment over his team's takedown of the Tar Heels ("We
held Carolina nine minutes without a field goal!"). The coaches also took
a 15-minute break to welcome several former Jayhawks- Scot Pollard, Ryan
Robertson, Greg Gurley and T.J. Pugh- who gathered with their
girlfriends and wives around Self, the coach holding court on the
semifinal win while perched on the countertop of the room's bar. That
the alums had all played for Roy Williams was one sign of how Self has
won over the fan base.
Shortly after 2 a.m., Manning took a call on his cellphone. "I got him!
I got Manning!" shouted the young caller to his friends before hanging
up. After the guy dialed Manning's number two more times in the next
five minutes, the other coaches chuckled. "Danny Manning! Danny
Manning!" they teased.
Monday night, however, Self and his staff were all business, and their
game plan accomplished something UCLA's couldn't two days earlier,
obstructing the Tigers' fearsome drives with a sagging man-to-man
defense. Although Kansas didn't shut down Rose and Douglas-Roberts (22
points), the Memphis backcourt couldn't match its usual efficiency,
shooting a combined 14 for 33. "I think I did a pretty good job on
[Douglas-Roberts]," said Rush. "In the second half I tried to buckle
down and sit down on his left hand. Then my team helped me out, too."
it was over, as confetti cannons belched and chants of Rock Chalk,
Jayhawk echoed through the Alamodome, Rush and Manning, player and
assistant coach, met at half-court for a long embrace. Talk about your
college hoops flashbacks. On a glorious spring night 20 years ago in
Kansas City, a transcendent number 25 in Kansas blue (Manning) led the
Jayhawks to a national title. On Monday night in San Antonio, another
number 25 in Kansas blue (Rush) helped take over a championship game
that appeared lost and put KU back into the history books. The calendar
may be different, and the uniform shorts a little longer, but that