From the San Antonio airport…
Posted by Dan Wolken
All day yesterday, I fully expected to be covering the 9 a.m. press conference for the national champions. At about 10:25 last night, I would have bet the farm on it. Instead, I’m ready to get home and begin a very long offseason in which we’ll probably be re-living and writing about what happened Monday night countless times. How can we not?
It was a historic collapse, something that won’t ever be forgotten. Any time a team is up 7 or 8 points in a national championship game with the clock winding down, Memphis’ 2008 loss will be talked about.
Was it free throws? Sure, Memphis could have won it once and for all at the line. If Derrick Rose makes 2-of-2 intead of 1-of-2, the Tigers win. If CDR doesn’t tense up with 16.8 left — and he was tense — the Tigers likely cut down the nets. But the play of the game was the inbounds pass Sherron Collins stole from Antonio Anderson. If Anderson gets the ball safely to Rose, he goes to the line with about 1:45 to go up by seven points. Maybe he makes both; maybe he just makes one. Either way, the Tigers probably would have put enough distance between themselves and Kansas right there to clinch it. Instead, a 9-point lead turns to 4 in a matter of 10 seconds. That changed the entire strategy in the final 1:40. Suddenly, every dribble and free throw was huge. If Rose goes to the line with a 7 point lead, he probably makes both simply because the pressure isn’t as great.
Joey Dorsey’s fifth foul with 1:23 to go was also another major mental error. It’s bad on three levels. 1) It stops the clock. 2) It fouls Dorsey out. 3) It allows Kansas to cut it from six to four on free throws.
The third gaffe belongs to John Calipari, and he will forever have to own it. He says he was trying to foul before Mario Chalmers got off the tying shot. But he should have called timeout after Rose made the second free throw. You have to call timeout there. Make sure everybody knows what is going on. Calling timeout is a no-lose situation. You let your defense get set up. You make Kansas inbound the ball. If you want to, you can even foul on the inbounds. If the Tigers foul, they win. Simple as that. Amazing.
Not fun to write about it, but it was a great season. Lots of things will be percolating in the coming weeks. We’ll do our best to have them for you first. Enjoy the offseason, as best you can.