By Nick Nelson
For the first time in the nearly 70 year history of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, the Final Four consisted entirely of number-one seeds: North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, and Memphis.
This past Monday, the tournament came to a close. What was the biggest surprise about the game? The teams playing.
The match-up in the national title game was not the University of North Carolina Tar Heels against the UCLA Bruins as many thought it would come down to. Instead two Final Four “upsets” pitted the Memphis Tigers against the Kansas Jayhawks.
Both Kansas and Memphis had double-digit victories over heavily favored UCLA and UNC, winning their respective games by an average of 16.5 points a piece, despite both being heavy underdogs going into the Final Four.
The game did not disappoint, as the two teams fought through regulation and overtime before Kansas was declared the national champion with a thrilling 75-68 victory. It was the first time a national title game had gone into overtime since Arizona beat Kentucky 84-79 in 1997.
The tournament consisted of a staggering 41 games decided by ten points or more, but neither Kansas nor Memphis led by any more than eight points in Monday’s title game.
Mario Chalmers, the do-it-all guard for the Jayhawks, drained an unbelievable three pointer with 2.1 seconds left to send the game to overtime tied 63-63. The clutch shot capped a nine-point Jayhawk comeback with 2:12 left in the second half, highlighted by airtight Kansas defense and enough bricks by Memphis at the free throw to build a new gym.
Free throws were ultimately the deciding factor in Monday’s contest, as Kansas made 93 percent of their charity shots, while Memphis faded down the stretch stumbling to a 63 percent margin. Kansas only made three of their 12 three pointers, but shot an impressive fifty-two percent from the field.
Many believed that it would be Memphis’ free throws that prevented them from reaching the championship game, but in the end it just prevented them from winning it.
The Jayhawks, who went into the locker room at halftime with only one scorer in double figures, exploded from that point on finishing the game with four scorers in double digits.
Kansas forward Darrell Arthur led the team in both points, 20, and rebounds, ten. Memphis guard Derrick Rose also had an impressive game, with 18 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
Memphis played an impressive game and definitely did all they could to prove that they deserved to be in the title game. The team committed just 13 turnovers as opposed to 17 by Kansas and made six three pointers to keep the game competitive. However, they were out-rebounded 37-27 and as was mentioned before, could not convert the free shots.
Chalmers was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player, the first guard to win the award since Maryland’s Juan Dixon took the award in 2002. Recent winners include Florida’s Joakim Noah and UConn’s Emeka Okafor.
Kansas reached the title game by downing Portland State, UNLV, Villanova, Davidson and UNC, while Memphis reached the big game with victories over Texas-Arlington, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Texas and UCLA.
Memphis finished the season 38-2, the most wins ever in a season by one team. Kansas finished with a 37-3 record and their first national championship since 1988.