Before we delve into breakdowns of players and such, I want to defend the title. Sure, this is our third National Championship, and the 1988 one was awfully special, with the whole underdog thing and all. Still, that was 20 years ago, and it isn't one of those years where everyone knows who one. Because of the late-game dramatics, and the incredible shot Mario Chalmers made, I have a feeling that this game will have a larger (and longer) impact on the minds of college basketball fans. You think Kansas, you think of the 2008 National Championship game and Mario's Miracle. Therefore, the greatest night in KU basketball history, because it will symbolize our program for awhile, at least IMO. But I digress.
I will break it up into three sections: what I liked, what I was 50/50 on and what I didn't like. And yes, even while winning a National Championship there was still some stuff I wasn't a fan of.
Mario Chalmers :: I think that just 'good' is an understatement, considering that he essentially gave us a National Championship with his shot. But, moving past the shot, he still played a pretty good game. He had scored 13 points up to that point, including making all of his freebies. You know, the shots that cost us the 2003 National Championship, and opened the door for us to win the 2008 NC. And yes, five years later no one really remembers the whole 15-32 debacle from the free throw line outside of Kansas fans, so eventually this whole "Memphis gave away the game to KU" will die down and people will only remember the shot. Plus, he played solid defense on his assignment, Antonio Anderson, holding him to only 9 points and forcing the two-headed monster to beat us by themselves. Of course, they nearly did, but more on that later.
Darrell Arthur :: For the second straight game, a Jayhawk player played a fantastic game, and I didn't really figure it out until I looked at the box score. DA put up a 20/10 double-double, and while the play that most sticks in my head is his non-box-out with under 20 seconds to go, which almost gave away our last shot at victory. Of course, even if we hadn't still found a way to get the game to OT, he sitll played a great game. Not only did he play tremendous on offense, providing our only 'real' low post option on offense (I continually found myself saying: "get the ball to Arthur!"), he also played great defense on the Memphis bigs. Taggart was completely ineffective, and while Dozier had himself a pretty nice game, their most important big, Joey Dorsey, was essentially invisible throughout the game.
Sherron Collins :: SC's line isn't incredible: 11 points, 6 assists, 4 boards. Still, without SC (as Dana O'Neill writes) no way we win this game. While I never fully gave up hope, I didn't honestly think we could come back until SC's soaring steal, pass while falling out-of-bounds, then to get the pass back and swish the ball through the next. All of a sudden, a seemingly impossible 9 point comeback became a surmountable 4, provided we were lucky with the missed FTs. Plus, SC played pretty good D on all-everything Derrick Rose, who is an absolutely phenomenal player. And after being told all week long that smaller players couldn't handle Rose, they were only partially right. Rose still did end up scoring 18 points, but a large majority of those were after we went into a Box-and-One on CDR, giving Rose way too much room to operate. Once he got going, he started playing like the Superman he was against UCLA. But going back to the point, after everyone claimed Rose would go off against the smaller guards of Kansas, specifically the 5'11" frame of Sherron Collins, they were proved wrong. SC played fantastic defense on Rose, muscling up and forcing Rose to out-physical him to the hoop, where a big would be waiting to help.
Russell Robinson :: Speaking of defense on Rose, everything that SC did Russell did even better. Even while standing 6'1", he played fantastic D on the taller and more-physical Rose, moving his feet and never allowing Rose an open lane to the bucket. That is the key to stopping the DribbleDrive-Motion offense Memphis employs, disallowing the easy layups, and Russell did that to perfection. Rarely does a 2 point, 3 assist, 4 rebound performance in the National Championship game earn you such high honors, but Russell's stats only tell a portion of his story, more than anybody else I've ever watched play this often. It is weird, but his stats have virtually no impact on my judgment of how he plays.
Disclaimer: Everyone who is labeled under either Indifferent or Bad is still greatly appreciated by me and (I hope) all other Kansas fans for their tremendous accomplishments. They all played a crucial role in making this team National Champions, and I am just making remarks about this one game.
Brandon Rush :: I am incredibly hard on Brandon, I know, but it is only because I know he is capable of greatness. He played OK-not-great on offense and, even though CDR scored 22 points, he played pretty good D. CDR is an out-of-this-world slasher, maybe the best I've ever seen, and he finishes in the weirdest ways. While they look like once-in-a-lifetime shots, his one-arm flailings at the basket, he makes those shots more than he misses them. Which makes him virtually impossible to defend. Plus, the Box-and-One wasn't particularly adept at stopping Rose and CDR, so I am taking some blame away from the players and putting it on Bill Self. Yes, that is probably why he considered leaving. Even after winning a frickin' National Championship, he is criticized.
Darnell Jackson :: Darnell had himself a solid game, although it was overshadowed by the tremendous game DA put up. Still, 8 points and 8 rebounds is pretty impressive, and he was a huge factor in limiting Dorsey's boards.
Bill Self :: While I was watching the game, I wasn't a big fan of switching to the Box-and-One. In fact, me and my dad had an argument about it at halftime. I argued that we shouldn't switch defenses until they proved they could successfully (over a period of time) beat that defense. He argued, and took the side Bill Self eventually took, that you anticipate the success of the Tigers' O and switch before they ever prove they can beat the man-to-man. Of course, no one knows how the man-to-man would have fared during the same timeframe, but we all know that the Box-and-One didn't work. And for that, despite my love for the man, I wasn't as thrilled with Self's decisions on Monday night. Although I did like his tie, as opposed to the hideous dead animal Roy tried to pull off as a tie Saturday night.
Sasha Kaun :: Let me preface this with the following: without Sasha Kaun, we don't reach the Final Four. OK, now I feel better about ripping him. For the second straight game, Sasha played pretty poor basketball. He played good defense, just like on Saturday, but not the 'great' defense we saw in Detroit or sporadically throughout the year, and his offense was virtually nonexistent. As incredible as he played up in Detroit, he was little more than a non-factor in San Antonio.
Later on tonight, I will take a look at the likely defections and 'where we go from here', but only in the briefest of forms. Because, in different ways, that is the question we will be answering all offseason here at RCT. For both the football team and the basketball team, 'Where Do We Go From Here?'