Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Sad Turn Of Events

At every turn they were asked about it. And at every turn they shrugged it off as nothing more than a meaningless statistic that in the end would not cost them a National Championship.

But alas, in the end, it was Memphis' inability to knock down free throws that ultimately led to their demise in the biggest game of the season.

For all the world it didn't look like it would end up this way as the Tigers had managed to can nearly 70% of their free throws throughout the tournament. All the while laughing off criticisms from the media that it was their Achilles heel.

They dominated three of the best teams in college basketball along the way in Michigan State, Texas and UCLA and did it all with the style and swagger of a team that knew it was the best in all the land.

Sure that mentality probably rubbed some people the wrong way and caused those people to rejoice when it all came crashing down around the deflated Tigers in overtime, but make no mistake that this was a truly great Memphis team.

It's a shame really that their head coach, John Calipari, basically disappeared on them for the last ten minutes of the game. Choosing to allow his players to run clock and improvise as opposed to structuring the game's final moments in an effort to keep their heads in the game.

It's also a shame that the best player in the tournament, Memphis point guard Derrick Rose, probably played his last game at the collegiate level. I'm not saying he should stay in school, I just think it would be fun to see this Memphis team give it another run next year.

If this team reminded me of any other from college basketball's past, it would have to be the 1991 UNLV squad led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anderson and Anderson Hunt.

That team had throttled any and all challengers on its way to the Final Four, but were beaten by Duke in the national semifinal after a string of late game mistakes and misses at the free throw line cost them as well.

Like many, I would argue that UNLV had the better team that year, but on that night for whatever reason it just wasn't there for them. I would also argue that while Kansas is certainly deserving of the big prize and they have a great team, I would take Memphis' kids in the same situation 9 out of 10 times.

In the end of course, that's what it all comes down to, the fact that they are indeed just kids.

Kids that can be taken out of their games and kids that on any given night can and will exhibit all the signs of nervousness no matter how many big games they had won before.

You've heard of saving your best for last. In Memphis' case they sadly saved their worst for last and rather than remembering how good they were, all anyone will remember is how they gave away the National Championship.

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