DAN: April Madness
By Dan O'Donnell
From 341 Division I teams to the 65 chosen for the Big Dance to the Final Four, now just two are left standing for tonight's final dance, a meeting more that promises far more blitz than ballroom. And have there ever been two more talented but less likely final partners than Memphis and Kansas? Seriously, were these the two 1 seeds that anyone picked to dance the final number? Anyone?
Probably not, but that's okay by them. Sure, Memphis has the best back court in college basketball with Chris Douglas-Roberts seemingly scoring at will and Derrick Rose running the dribble-drive motion offense straight to the top of the NBA Lottery, but UCLA was a lock to beat them, right? Surely Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier couldn't handle Kevin Love inside, could they? Memphis was a fluke, right? A big-conference team in the lowly Conference USA. That 33-1 record was gaudy enough, but they would wilt when they played real teams in the Tournament, right?
And what about Kansas? Easily the most NBA talent in the Tournament field, but they couldn't play together enough to beat a true team like North Carolina, could they? Bill Self has never won the big game, what's to make anyone think he would this year?
With so many questions surrounding these teams, it was all the more impressive that they waltzed through the field with such ease. Memphis beat UCLA, the clear favorite to win the whole thing, by 15. Kansas went up on North Carolina, every so-called "expert's" runner-up, 40-12.
You need any more answers than that? Despite what pre-Tourney prognosticators (myself included) may have thought they knew, these two teams have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that they belong in this game.
Both typically start three guards and are incredibly athletic in the back court. For Memphis, Rose is quite possibly the most complete point guard in college basketball, and he's been darned near unstoppable in the Tournament. Douglas-Roberts has great range off of Rose's drive and dish and plays a terrific inside-out game himself. He'll have a tough matchup in Brandon Rush, though, who is an underrated defender in addition to a prolific scorer.
However, the defensive key will be Mario Chalmers, who needs to step up and keep Rose from the lane so as to disrupt Memphis' vaunted dribble-drive sets.
Up front, the Jayhawks are long and lean, with athletic bigs Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson able to score points in bunches. But make no mistake, they'll get all they can handle with the muscular duo of Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey.
Both coaches are great, with Calipari getting a slight edge because of big game experience, but this game will come down to the talent on the floor which, perhaps more so than any other game this season, is plentiful.
And isn't that what the NCAA Tournament is all about? Sure, a Cinderella like Davidson is fun to watch and it would have been nice if at least some of my bracket picks would have come through, but ultimately the Big Dance is about the big showcase of the biggest talent. Here it is, folks, whether you predicted it or not, and it will be one heck of a fun game.
And even if it's a blowout, hey, you know One Shining Moment will be good. Man, I love the college game!