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March Memories: Kansas vs. Memphis 2008

Mario Chalmer's three pointer at the end of regulation would catapult the Kansas Jayhawks to their first national title in 20 years.
Mario Chalmer's three pointer at the end of regulation would catapult the Kansas Jayhawks to their first national title in 20 years.

2:12 on the clock, a nine point deficit.  What goes through the mind of a player?  If you're a Kansas fan in 2008 you might already have been reflecting on a season that was, an opportunity missed or another chance at a championship that was so close but couldn't quite be reached. Fortunately the players wearing the Jayhawk uniform never flinched.

Kansas and Memphis both found their way through the NCAA tournament following incredibly successful seasons.  Kansas had achieved the winningest season in the schools storied history with 36 wins.  The Memphis Tigers had locked up the winningest season in the history of the entire NCAA with 38.  Just five losses in 80 games between the two teams and now they would face off in the championship game at the first ever Final Four to include all four top seeds. It was only fitting that the championship game in this historic tournament would take an extra five minute period to decide.  Still, it was the final 2:12 in regulation would define the game.

Early on the Jayhawks seemed in control holding a slim but steady lead for much of the first half.   The second half played out much the same through the first 12 minutes as the Jayhawks often led, but never comfortably.  Slowly the Tigers, led by freshman Derrick Rose, would grab hold of the momentum and take the lead for their first significant stretch of the game with 8:11 to go.  A Memphis lead that the Tigers would not relinquish until the final two seconds of regulation.

Following a pair of Robert Dozier free throws with 2:12 on the clock,  the Jayhawks would take the ball down the court trailing by nine for what would be one of many critical possessions down the stretch.  This is where the game begins for most.  The memories of that final 2:12 outweigh and overshadow the entire 37:48 prior.  Following a quick two pointer by Darrell Arthur, the Jayhawks now down 7 called a quick timeout.  The play out of this timeout arguably turned the tide of the contest as Sherron Collins stole the inbound pass while falling out of bounds.  After saving the basketball to his teammate, Collins would setup in the corner and knock down a three pointer with Russell Robinson assisting on the play.  In less than ten seconds a nine point lead for the Tigers was down to four. 

Suddenly the pressure rested squarely on the shoulders of a Tiger team that had faced questions about free throw shooting all season long.  The Jayhawks had taken back a bit of momentum,  seen a glimmer of hope and most importantly a gained a belief that this game was winnable. 

Over the next 1:47 the Jayhawks continued fighting and the Tigers struggled to close.  With just 10 seconds on the clock Derrick Rose made just one of two from the free throw line leaving the lead at three and the door open for Kansas.  Open for one of the most memorable shots in NCAA tournament history as Mario Chalmers received a pass from Sherron Collins and launched a three that would touch nothing but net with just over two seconds left on the clock. 

Overtime was a formality, the body language said it all.  As the horn sounded at the end of regulation the Jayhawks ran back to their team huddle.  Derrick Rose and Memphis literally limped to Coach Calipari who wouldn't have an answer.  The Jayhawks outscored the Tigers 12-5 in the extra five minutes to claim their first national title since Danny and the Miracles in 1988.  Another miracle was all it took, Mario's miracle as it's become known, one of the most memorable shots in tournament history. 

One of the best shots, in one of the best finishes in arguably the best Final Four of all time.  The Kansas Jayhawks were once again National Champions of college basketball and Mario Chalmers had permanently cemented himself, his team and the memory of this game in the hearts and minds of many for years to come.