Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
4/07/2008 11:39:00 AM
The Biggest Monday
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SAN ANTONIO -- The final day is finally upon us. We've broken down five reasons why Memphis will win (that's from me) and five reasons why Kansas will win (that's from Stew Mandel). Our cadre of anonymous assistant coaches have given you the "books" on Derrick Rose and Brandon Rush, as well as full scouting reports of the Tigers and the Jayhawks. What, then, is possibly left to present? My last five things:
5. Derrick Rose does not eat as well as he plays. Memphis' MVP bailed out of Sunday's press conference before it even started, citing an upset stomach, and was absent from all interview sessions. To hear Joey Dorsey explain it, the reason might be that Rose rarely consumes a thing at team meals. Apparently coach John Calipari caught Rose trying to avoid eating any pasta after Saturday night's game, so, Dorsey said, "Coach went over and made a plate full of pasta and macaroni and put it in front of him. ... But he didn't eat it, he just played in it. He mixed the food around and spread it out, and he left, and coach [thought] he ate something."
He just played in it. Like a 5-year-old rather than a 19-year-old. If the Tigers were to move their buffet to a candy store, though, Rose would be fine. "He eats Gummy Bears and Starburst for breakfast, and Twizzlers and Honey Buns for dinner. That's why his stomach hurts," Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "We tell Derrick the whole year, 'Stop eating so many Gummy Bears and Sour Straws.' But he can't."
Part of me still wonders if Rose wasn't just trying to get a free pass out of the media availability time. He legitimately hates talking about himself -- hence this "Oh, sh--" slip during Saturday's press conference -- and must have been dreading the idea of sitting alone in a breakout room (each Final Four starter had his own presser on Sunday) for 30 minutes. I asked Dorsey whether Rose was faking, and he started laughing and said, "I can't talk about that." Then Dorsey went up to Memphis sports information director Lamar Chance and tried to feign a stomach ache, in hopes of avoiding an interview for CBS.
4. As much as Memphis seems to be on a mission, you wonder if the basketball fates haven't preordained a big title-game performance for Brandon Rush. He was devastated by an offseason ACL injury that kept him out of the NBA draft, but this Final Four trip has been the reward for returning for his junior year and becoming an aggressive scorer late in the season. "I've finally got it in my head that people want me to shoot the ball more," he said. "So I decided to shoot the ball more."
Surely he would not be getting as many good looks if he were, say, a reserve on the Nets. "If I was an NBA rook, I probably wouldn't get any playing time," Rush said. "I'd probably be riding the bench, probably on a losing squad. So I'm happy right now." Understandably.
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3. Dorsey might have Dwight Howard on the brain Monday night. Memphis' Gift That Keeps On Giving said Sunday that his motivation for big rebounding games would sometimes come not from his opponent or his coach, but an NBA game he watched the night before. "During the season I would watch Marcus Camby or Dwight Howard to see how many rebounds they had on one night -- then I'd try to go out there and top them, like I was playing against a pro," Dorsey said. "That's what the game is called, 'Playing Against A Pro.' Camby would have 19 rebounds and one game I had 22 rebounds, so I was happy that I had overcome him."
Howard had 15 boards against the Knicks on Sunday, and Camby had 13 against Seattle. Can Joey get 16 -- one more than the 15 (and zero points) he had against UCLA -- and take them both down? This would surely please his coach, John Calipari, whom Joey said "is always on my back."
2. This title game was made for fans of the 'oop. "If we don't lead the country in lobs, then Memphis does," Kansas coach Bill Self said. The Tigers' Dribble-Drive Motion offense keeps Joey Dorsey on the weakside block as their guards penetrate, and whenever opposing big men step up to help, Joey soars up to catch an alley-oop. It's how they keep him happy. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, love to slip their screening forwards to the basket, where they're delivered lobs from Rush, Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson. Put the over-under on 'oops at four.
1. Memphis takes basket-attacking to a whole 'nother level. After talking with Tigers assistant John Robic -- who said of the Dribble-Drive Motion philosophy, "We want to shoot a layup every time we touch the ball" -- I went and made composite images of Memphis' shot charts from the Elite Eight game against Texas and the Final Four game against UCLA. The charts show that while the Tigers are prone to launching a a few ill-advised three-point attempts in the first halves of games, when they take a lead into the homestretch, they truly do only look for layups and dunks.
Against Texas, Memphis took only three shots from outside the lane area (the three-second zone plus the blocks) in the second half:
And against UCLA, the Tigers took only four shots from outside the lane area in the second half:
This, folks, is what happens when you have Rose and Douglas-Roberts slashing past every perimeter defender. And it's also why Kansas might be willing to get away from its bread-and-butter man-to-man, and settle in to a 3-2 zone.