A few more quick hits about the Final Four semifinal games…
A lot of people aren’t going to like hearing this, but Roy Williams got outcoached by Bill Self in Kansas’ 84-66 victory over North Carolina.
Yeah, yeah, UNC made a huge comeback, cutting a 28-point first-half deficit to four with a little over 11 minutes left in the game. And Kansas looked tight and shell-shocked during about a 15-minute stretch in the middle of the game as Carolina came storming back.
But the numbers don’t lie. Kansas shot 53 percent from the field, held a Tar Heels team accustomed to scoring 90-plus to just 36 percent shooting and held a 39-32 rebounding advantage against a team that hasn’t been outrebounded all season long.
Self’s opening gameplan was brilliant, using big players up top lobbing silky passes over Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson to Kansas big men underneath. The Jayhawks’ guards spread the floor and penetrated UNC’s defense, kicking out for 3s to Brandon Rush, who was on fire. Everything worked perfectly, and as the Heels struggled to adjust to a team every bit as fast — maybe faster — as they, the Jayhawks built an enormous 28-point lead.
The Heels deserve credit for coming all the way back and at least making everybody consider the impossible.
But Self never wavered. He kept calling timeout after timeout — something Williams would never do — and settling his team down. Eventually, the Jayhawks got it, and at about the 9-minute mark of the second half, they started playing like they did in the opening 12 minutes. The looked inside. They spread the floor. They got offensive rebounds. They used their quick hands and swarming defense in the paint to disrupt the Heels’ offense.
And then, in the game’s third act, the Jayhawks pulled away again.
This may be a hard pill to swallow, because the comeback was so dramatic, but Kansas is the better team.
They beat the Tar Heels twice on Saturday night.
Ty Lawson better seriously consider coming back for another season. He had big-time trouble turning the corner on Kansas’ Sherron Collins and Russell Robinson. Lawson had a lot of shots blocked at the rim because the defense was stingy enough to allow time for Kansas’ big men to come over and block the shot from the weak side.
My apologies to Quentin Thomas. He played really well throughout the season, and was pretty darn good defensively for the Heels in the second half on Saturday night.
Kansas is flat-out loaded, both in the frontcourt and the backcourt. Foul trouble, unless it’s Rush, is never a problem. They just keep bringing in guy after guy after guy on the perimeter and in the paint and don’t miss a beat. There is a lot — a lot — of balanced talent on that team.
We’re all starting to get an idea of just how good Memphis can be. What a physically imposing basketball team. When you can match UCLA’s toughness from start to finish and pretty much control the Bruins for 40 minutes, that’s pretty impressive.
UCLA fell into a trap that UNC does a lot, and that’s forgetting about its big man. UCLA trailed by only three points to start the second half, getting 10 points and six rebounds from Kevin Love.
But Love didn’t get many touches in the second half, finishing the game with just 12 points and nine boards. Memphis gets credit for that, but sometimes, like the Heels did against Louisville, the offense just has to run through its best player.
Derrick Rose. Derrick Rose. Derrick Rose.
So, Kansas-Memphis — who ya got?
I’m going with Memphis. This is a much better team than it gets credit for, a slight it can blame on its lousy conference. While Kansas can come at you in waves, there’s no denying that the Jayhawks go through some serious lulls.
It is in those lulls where Memphis will win the national title.