The last time Calipari had a team in this position, his Memphis Tigers famously missed four consecutive free throws in the closing minutes that enabled Kansas to make up a nine-point deficit, force overtime on Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer and ultimately claim the title with a 75-68 victory.
And now here is Calipari, going for the title once again against Bill Self and the Jayhawks.
“I have a lot of fond memories,” said Calipari, whose coaching career began as a volunteer assistant at Kansas in 1982. “But not particularly that game.
“It’s just that everything that could have went wrong went wrong, and everything they had to do right did. Stars and the moon lined up, and all of a sudden, we went to overtime.”
However, it’s a mistaken notion that Memphis had trouble at the line throughout that game. Before the four misses the Tigers were 11-of-14, and they’d gone 50-of-59 in their three previous tournament games, although they had been one of the poorer teams from the line during the season.
On Saturday against Louisville, Kentucky made only 11 of 20 free throws (55 percent), their poorest performance of the season. The Wildcats’ second-worst output was 16-of-29 (55.2 percent) against Kansas in November.
For the season, the Wildcats are a 72.7 percent free-throw shooting team, and in the South Region they were 65-of-81 (80.2 percent) from the line.
Self is selling hard to his players that the world is selling them short. He loves the questions that make the Jayhawks out to be overwhelming underdogs. He relishes the idea that the perception is that Kansas will be facing an NBA franchise tonight.
And all he keeps telling his players is the same thing that Jimmy Valvano told his North Carolina State players 29 years ago before they faced the University of Houston:
"Everyone says we have no chance against Houston. They're probably right. But I know one thing: We have a better chance to beat Houston than anyone else, because we're playing them."
St Louis PD Burwell
KU AD: Coach Self and players preview the national championship game
KU AD Video: Jayhawks talk about showdown with Kentucky
ESPN Video: And then there were two
Yahoo Video: Preview
LJW Photos: KU & UK interviews
Rivals Video: Aaron Craft lane violation
One win away from a national championship, Thomas Robinson sat in front of tape recorders Sunday for likely one of the last times in his college career and wanted to talk about how personally he took an early-season loss to Kentucky.
He wanted to talk about how he felt “embarrassed” with his performance, how Kentucky got the best of him emotionally and physically. He wanted to talk about a payback opportunity in Monday’s national title game five months after the most frustrating game of the season for the all-American.
…But after answering basketball-related questions for 22 minutes, a television reporter abruptly changed the subject, asking Robinson about this season being easier now that it’s more than a year after his well-chronicled personal loss. Robinson leaned forward and asked the reporter to repeat the question.
“Did you say easier?” Robinson said. “It’s never easier, nah.”
About an hour later, Kansas director of basketball operations Barry Hinson sat in the Jayhawks’ locker room. Hinson was in Washington with Robinson on that snowy morning in January 2011 for the funeral of Robinson’s mother, Lisa. In one month, Robinson and younger sister Jayla lost their maternal grandparents and mother.
When told about the inartful question in Sunday’s media session, Hinson’s eyes welled up. He looked away and paused for several seconds before saying, “Yeah, I hate . . .” He never finished the sentence.
“That’s when you want to be there to protect him,” Hinson said. “You see what he has done [maturity-wise], even handling that question, my god.”
…All of the players who will compete in Monday’s national title game have been bombarded with silly, insightful and irrelevant questions from reporters for a month during tournament play. But every time Robinson addresses reporters, he knows that at any moment he could be asked about his feelings on a topic more private and personal than his national player of the year credentials.
At any moment, a question could rekindle memories. On Thursday, Robinson was asked whether his sister would be in attendance at the Final Four. He politely declined comment.
…A victory Monday would cap an extraordinary basketball season for Robinson. But Hinson knows that Robinson does not need a national title to validate how he has thrived amid enormous hardship.
In the coming weeks, Robinson likely will forgo his senior season at Kansas and enter the NBA draft. Projected to be a lottery pick, Robinson will be in position to provide financially for his sister.
Whenever that move comes, Robinson will never be far from the family in Lawrence, Kan., that has protected and at times shielded him from painful memories.
“He is getting ready to take the next step,” Hinson said, “and I hope somebody is there to protect him. I hope it continues to be a great story. He’s got to have somebody there at all times — and all he has to do is reach back to Kansas.”
He couldn’t trust himself to stay much longer. After Kansas’ win Saturday night in the national semifinals, a delightful and satisfying evening for legendary former coach Larry Brown, he decided to remove himself from a difficult — and potentially unfair — equation.
This is something Brown will not deny: He loves KU. He has affection for other schools, other coaches, other places. But they do not compare.
“Nothing is like Kansas,” says Brown, who, 24 years after leading the Jayhawks to a national championship, still refers to the Jayhawks as “we” and “us.”
Throughout this season, the 71-year-old coach known both for winning championships and leading a nomadic life rekindled and embraced his relationship with the Jayhawks. He visited often, watched practices and, according to players, occasionally shared pointers from his 40-year coaching career. He watched game film with coach Bill Self and his assistants. When decisions were to be made, often it was Brown who helped make them. He spent most of the past month with the Jayhawks, along for a ride he once knew.
“He’s got to be around ball,” Self says.
Brown was sitting in the lower section of the Superdome on Saturday when KU came back to beat Ohio State and advance to play for the Jayhawks’ fourth NCAA championship. Brown cheered like a longtime fan, using his arms to shield his head from flying debris. Then he had dinner with the team. Late that night, the Jayhawks coaches began the task ahead: preparing for tonight’s final against Kentucky and coach John Calipari, who, like Self, got his start in coaching working for Brown in Lawrence.
Brown and Calipari still talk, Brown says, sometimes daily. Brown has attended Kentucky’s practices, too. He knows the Wildcats’ tendencies and some of their secrets. He also likes to talk. Deep allegiance and loose lips can lead to temptations, and if KU assistants were to ask the right questions, well …
“I just thought it best I excuse myself,” Brown says.
So he made a decision: He didn’t just have to leave KU’s locker room; he had to leave New Orleans. He didn’t sleep. When 5 a.m. came, he left his hotel, went to the airport and flew home to Philadelphia.
…“I’d be at Kansas all the time,” he says, “but I don’t want to be a nuisance.”
This season, Self and his staff put Brown to work. He began spending more time in Lawrence, speaking at Self’s basketball clinic and attending early season practices. Soon he was breaking down film and offering pointers to KU players.
“He just observes,” Jayhawks guard Tyshawn Taylor says. “He throws his little lines in there when he notices something, but he just sits back and observes.”
Sometimes, he’s more hands-on.
“When there’s things that need to be corrected, little things, he may step up and say something,” guard Travis Releford says. “Or coaches may ask him on the side: ‘What do you think about this play?’ or ‘What do you think about that play?’ ”
Brown says he is careful not to overstep, saying he recommends tweaks or changes through coaches, not directly to players.
“I’ll talk to Bill or I’ll talk to an assistant if I have something on my mind that I think is appropriate,” he says.
…Anyway, this time it’s different. He’s gotten so close to KU, felt at home again with the Jayhawks, that he just didn’t know if he could keep hanging around without sharing something that might compromise his relationship with Calipari.
“I know so much about Kentucky,” he says, “I just didn’t think it would be right.”
After discussing his allegiance not only for Self but for the Jayhawks, Brown was asked who, in the deepest recesses of his soul, he’d like to see win tonight’s deciding game. No, he says. Don’t make him choose.
“I’m not going to reveal that,” he says. “I can’t.”
But this is a man who likes to talk. So he does. He says Calipari believes he needs the win, so that he’ll have the justification that he’s not just a recruiting headhunter, or perhaps the best coach to never win a championship.
Who does Brown want to win? Just listen to his words.
“I love John,” he says. “And I’ve gotten to know his kids and care deeply about them. But I could never have feelings like I have for Kansas.”
The Jayhawks still haven’t played their best in the NCAA Tournament but can become champions Monday because they don’t let anyone else play their best either.
“That’s kind of who we are,” Self said. “We’ve got to make other teams not be rhythmic, take away what they want to do. With Kentucky, you’ve got to take away layups. It sounds easy to say, but transition or second shots, you’ve got to take away lobs.”
Kentucky can make an argument as college basketball’s best team with a win on Monday. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might be the first two picks in this summer’s NBA draft. Terrence Jones will almost certainly join them in the first round, shaking the commissioner’s hand.
But if that happens — if the Wildcats have their championship and a historical case to make — they will have earned every second of the celebration.
…One hundred and thirty eight nights ago, Kentucky and Kansas were tied at halftime. Davis dunked on the Wildcats’ first possession. Jones hit a jumper on their next one. Then another dunk by Davis, then a dunk by Jones, a three-pointer by Marquis Teague — 11 points on five possessions — and Kansas never made the game serious again.
Self was talking about that game late Saturday night. He said Kentucky “just wore us out the second half.”
Thing is, this Kansas team no longer wears out in the second half.
That’s not who they are anymore.
The story now goes like this: Robinson is the best player on a team that will play for a national title, a distinction that puts him in elite company among KU greats. The club gets even more exclusive should the Jayhawks beat Kentucky on Monday, an opportunity they earned by edging Ohio State 64-62 Saturday at the Superdome.
The game will be a referendum on college basketball’s player of the year race, which has swung in favor of Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Robinson is OK with that. He has a chance to add a bigger bullet to his bio.
“That don’t even matter no more,” Robinson said. “I threw the player of the year thing out the window. It seemed like everybody wanted to give it to him anyway. I get a chance Monday to win a championship.”
…Saturday was KU’s 132nd NCAA Tournament game, moving the Jayhawks past UCLA for No. 3 nationally. Kentucky (155) and North Carolina (149) lead the list.
...KU improved to 12-12 in Final Four games.
Robinson spent two years coming off Kansas’ bench, behind NBA-bound Cole Aldrich and then the Morris twins, and 2011-12 was expected to be his breakout year. But it took Kentucky bullying Robinson to make him face the truth: That if he wanted to be the man, he would have to handle the defensive attention that came with it.
He retreated to the film room, studying enough clips, he said, “to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again.” Robinson expected to be trapped as a junior, but had never experienced anything like what Kentucky’s fearsome front line did to him. Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis, who had seven blocks in that game, alternated as his primary defender, and the Wildcats ran big-to-big double-teams on him in the post, sometimes even dropping down a third player from the wing to take away all of his dribble-and-spin options. Robinson worked with assistant coach Danny Manning to devise ways to counteract double-teams — including retreat dribbles and fakes that could freeze traps and set up scoring chances, either for him or left-open teammates.
“Most of all,” Robinson said, “I learned that if you know the double is coming, and you can be patient*, it’ll work out.”
…Kansas has come a long way since November, but so has Kentucky, which grew up on the fly, managed not to develop any ego issues among its crew of draft hopefuls, emerged as the nation’s No. 1 team by December, and never gave up that title. When the two teams met in New York, no one realized that Robinson (who went on to average 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds) and Davis would be the top two candidates for the Wooden and Naismith Awards. That race was still expected to be between Sullinger and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes.
But seasons do not always go how we expect. Kansas did not believe, back then, that it could reach a national title game, and no one expected Davis to be this transcendent, this awe-inspiring. He had 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks against Louisville on Saturday. His game-changing abilities had Rick Pitino comparing him to Bill Russell. Davis’ lob dunks — in particular the one where Kidd-Gilchrist’s pass was tipped in mid-air, and Davis still managed to reach back and execute a one-handed, righty slam — are the signature highlights from New Orleans. Robinson has to grind for all his baskets, but Davis is on such a different athletic plane that his points come effortlessly.
Robinson was not willing to say much after that loss to Kentucky. He tersely answered three or four questions before heading toward the team bus outside Madison Square Garden. One of them was if there was anyone else like Davis in college basketball. “No,” Robinson said. “Not at all.”
As the season turns to April, that statement holds true. There is no one like Anthony Davis. And no one may be able to counteract the force that is Davis. But no college superstar has paid his dues like Robinson has. No star has endured what he has endured, and channeled it into a season like this one. Thomas Robinson will not let himself get bullied again. “Second chances,” he said on Saturday, “are always the best.”
SI Luke Winn
Among Kansas fans, there will always be a special place for Danny and the Miracles. But in the course of this season, and especially during their run to Monday night’s national championship game, the Jayhawks have shown that they, too, have a little miracle in them.
“Not to take away from Danny,” KU assistant Barry Hinson said, “but this is the five-, six-, seven-guy miracle.”
It’s near blasphemy to compare any team to Danny and the Miracles, the team led by assistant coach Danny Manning that defied all odds. And this team, in many ways, isn’t at all like that 1988 group. This team entered the tournament as a two seed, and some even picked the Jayhawks to reach the Final Four.
But these Jayhawks have found ways to win when they looked all but beaten.
"I feel like people feel like we got lucky to get here," Robinson said. "We still had to play those games, still had to make those comebacks, still had to make those stops. That's not luck, that's playing. I don't like how it's happened but it's happened."
Maybe the Kentucky Invitational has a gate crasher. Maybe Kansas won't come within 20. Maybe Davis and the 'Cats are emotionally spent after Saturday's summit with Louisville.
But maybe, improbably, Kardiac Kansas has another grinder left in it.
…when Travis picked up his phone after the game, there was a special message awaiting from little brother: One more game for the national championship.
“He texted me and was like, ‘Growing up, this is something we always talked about,’ ” Releford said. “Now I finally get that chance.”
After four full seasons at Kansas — time marked by sitting, waiting and watching — Releford will be on the floor tonight when Kansas tips off against top-ranked Kentucky inside the Superdome. With a victory tonight, it is believed that Releford, who played his high school ball across the state line at Bishop Miege, would become just the third basketball player from the Kansas City area to start for a NCAA champion. The kid whose career began in the parks off 43rd Street would be able to claim bragging rights on so many others from the neighborhood — and the others nearby.
“He’s just a basketball player,” said L.J. Goolsby, who coached Releford during the summer on the KC Pump N Run AAU team.
…Instead of just sitting, Self sold Releford on a future where he could be an impact player — if he redshirted and waited.
“I knew it was best for me,” Releford said last week, “and best for the team.”
…“Travis is the ultimate glue guy,” Self said. “He’s the guy you need on your team to give your team the best chance to be good.”
In practice, teammates say they shake their heads at Releford’s ability to escape from a busted play with a dunk or contort his body in just the right way to win a loose ball. In many ways, it’s almost old-school — the college swingman that eschews the three-pointer in favor of spins, dips and pump-fakes at the basket.
“A little unorthodox,” teammate Conner Teahan said.
The story goes that seldom-used guard Adolph Rupp asked to hold the ball in one of his Kansas team photos from the early 1920s.
“Grandpa said, ‘Sure, Adolph, but why?’ said Mark Allen, the grandson of Rupp’s coach, Phog Allen.
“Because,” Rupp is said to have responded, “It’s the only time you’ll let me touch the ball.”
This is where the Kansas-Kentucky connection begins, in black-and-white team photograph days.
Tonight, college basketball’s classic programs intersect at the top for the first time in the history of the sport they helped write.
The Wildcats, with 2,089 victories, rank first on college basketball’s all-time scoreboard. The Jayhawks, with 2,070, rank second.
Kentucky owns seven NCAA trophies, Kansas three. All-Americans, Olympians, legendary coaches, countless conference championships — the list of achievements runs long. The teams both play in buildings named for Jayhawks, Allen Fieldhouse and Rupp Arena.
Kansas begins as the game’s roots, and Kentucky popularized the game.
James Naismith got the ball rolling at Kansas, and it can be argued that Kentucky turned the nation on to the sport after Rupp arrived and created a powerhouse team during the Great Depression.
…In 1923, Rupp was a senior on the Kansas team that was retroactively chosen the nation’s best team by the Helms Foundation. Rupp never started. He was part of the squad of reserves that called themselves the “meat packers.”
Rupp was the only member of that team to go into coaching, and when the 1923 team held reunions, he returned to Lawrence when he could.
Allen died in 1974, and his grandson, Mark, said it was a nice surprise when Rupp arrived for the funeral.
“This tall man walked up and I wasn’t sure who it was at first,” Allen said. “It was Adolph Rupp, the legend.”
On that day, Kansas and Kentucky had reconnected, as they will tonight on the biggest stage.
There is no pressure on Bill Self to win his second national title, but if he does beat John Calipari for the second time in the ultimate game, he'll convert from a great coach with one championship into an active legend with two.
Two-for-two at that. Two Final Fours, two championships, both over Cal. Forget Rick Pitino as a foil; Self stands to be the one who overshadows and haunts Calipari's career. Tough to imagine the game playing out like this, but if Kansas does beat Kentucky, Self will widen the gap between himself and all but three other coaches in the game (see below), putting a title-less Calipari even further in the rear-view. Calipari's team has six McDonald's All-American's. Kansas: not a one.
Kansas has been to 14 Final Fours. Not surprising. That's fifth all-time, behind Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina. The surprising part? This program has just three national titles. Those titles came under three coaches (Phog Allen '52, Larry Brown in '88, Self in '08). Delivering two titles in a four-year span at KU is unprecedented. Now we're understanding the weight of the accomplishment if Self can pull it off.
…Even without the title, it's still a hell of a year for Kansas and for Self (is this his greatest coaching job?). Beautifully unexpected is the way a lot of Jayhawks fans see it. I think we can sometimes get caught up with big college basketball names and take for granted what some of these teams do in March. Kansas was picked fourth in the Big 12. Many believe this team would struggle to earn a single-digit seed. Instead, a No. 2 seed, 32 wins, and the most mind-blowing stat of all: Thanks to the come-from-behind win against Ohio State, Kansas' 197 wins in the past six seasons is a college basketball record.
"Wow. I did not know that," Self said when I shared the stat with him (discovered by our own C.J. Moore) Sunday. "We play more games now than they used to. UCLA back in the '70s, they would have won more games. … During that six-year period, we've had three or four different teams. We had to reload, and it's amazing to me that the consistency that we've had. We've been healthy. We've gotten good kids that like each other."
Final Four washout or first-time champion? Overpaid or underappreciated? One-and-done specialist or dynasty builder?
There is no middle ground for Kentucky coach John Calipari. He either wins a national title against underdog Kansas or he doesn't. And if he doesn't, then the doubts and questions will begin to bubble to the surface throughout Big Blue Nation.
Calipari will leave the Superdome in the wee hours of Tuesday morning as a failure or as the guy who led UK from the desert. Kentucky hasn't won one of these things since 1998 and Wildcats fans are tired of Final Four dry mouth.
Russell Robinson @Next718star
Tuned in from Turkey! #rockchalk So proud on so many levels!
The last time Kansas University was in the NCAA championship game, Mario Chalmers hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that sent the Jayhawks into overtime and eventually to victory over Derrick Rose and Memphis in 2008.
So, yes, that was a glow Chalmers carried into (but not out of) the Miami Heat locker room Sunday at TD Garden. And, yes, those were texts from this season's Jayhawks on his phone moments after Kansas' Saturday Final Four victory over Ohio State.
For Chalmers, there is more than a historical attachment to the Jayhawks. Due to the NBA lockout, he spent part of the offseason working out in Lawrence with many of the players who will take the court Monday night in New Orleans against Kentucky.
"I spent a lot of time out there during the lockout working out with some of them, so it's good to see them reach their goal," he said…
Among the incoming texts Saturday were ones from Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson.
"Those three guys, I talk to them all the time," Chalmers said. "I talk to them at least once or twice every two weeks.
"All three of them texted me, about, 'We got one, we need one more,' " he said. "I told them to stay focused and get this next one on Monday."
ESPN VIDEO: Gottlieb breaks down the championship game, picks UK to win
While the nation has been enamored with Kentucky and its eye-popping talent, a statistical analysis for The Quad maintained throughout the past month that Kansas was also one of the teams most likely to win the men’s college basketball championship — identifying the Jayhawks as an impressive No. 2 seed before the N.C.A.A. tournament began and primed to advance through their region after North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall was injured in the first week.
Going by the statistics determined to be most correlated with success, Monday night’s title game is a virtual tossup, regardless of which team may have more future pros or produce more SportsCenter highlights. Below is a tale of the tape comparing the two squads in the important statistical categories, each boasting national rankings inside the top 50 across the board.
Field-goal percentage defense: Kentucky 1st; Kansas 2nd
Assist-to-turnover ratio: Kentucky 40th; Kansas 46th
Rebounding margin: Kentucky 12th; Kansas 22nd
All this bodes well for a competitive game. It should also be more aesthetically appealing than last year’s brickfest between UConn and Butler, given that Kentucky and Kansas are decidedly superior to the 2011 finalists in a fourth category.
Offensive field-goal percentage: Kentucky 7th; Kansas 23rd; UConn (2011) 182nd; Butler (2011) 183rd
Beyond the numbers, if this turns out to be anything like the other time coaches John Calipari and Bill Self squared off for a national title, it will be an instant classic. Kansas is loaded with juniors and seniors, while Self is a perfect 3-0 in Final Four contests, including the 2008 championship against Calipari’s Memphis team.
Will Wildcat star power reign supreme? Or will Jayhawk experience prevail? In this case, the vital stats say we’ll just have to wait and see.
For the 2012 Men’s Basketball Championship, Davis has blocked 18 shots in the paint and altered another 23.
Davis also is one of only three players, along with Joakim Noah (2006) and Kevin Love (2008), to score at least 75 points, grab 50 rebounds and block at least 20 shots in a single NCAA tournament (since blocked shots became an official stat in 1985-86).
In this tournament, however, Davis has been outdone by Kansas’ Jeff Withey, who blocked a Final Four record seven shots against Ohio State. What’s more, Withey kept each of his blocked shots in bounds, and has kept all but 15 of his 136 blocks this season in bounds
Withey has blocked 27 shots in the 2012 NCAA tournament, two shy of the single-tournament record set by Noah in 2006.
Finally, if the Wildcats beat the No. 2 seeded Jayhawks, they will be the fourth straight team to win the national title without having played a No. 1 seed. From 1979 to 2008, only six teams won it all without having to play a No. 1 seed along the way.
It was the first time in this tournament that Kentucky had three players in double digits. The rest of the games they've had four or five guys scoring 10 or more. The ‘Cats also shot an astonishing 57.1 percent from the floor against the Cardinals.
How do you stop a team like that?
Unfortunately, if you're Kansas, you can't.
Sure, there will be plenty of talk about the Jayhawks' comeback over Ohio State, and how forward Thomas Robinson and guard Elijah Johnson took the team on their strong shoulders. But Kentucky has three guards — Lamb, Miller and Marquis Teague — who are better than Johnson. And while Robinson could certainly give Davis his money's worth in a one-on-one game, who among the Jayhawks will stop Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones?
Jeff Withey and Kevin Young are decent rebounders, and they might stop one of Kentucky's big men, but you can't stop all three. If any of Kentucky's starters gets a cold shooting hand, Kyle Wiltjer will come off the bench with the Wildcats' purest shot.
That is how they win. They are a hydra: cut off one head and four others take its place. You might stop one superstar, maybe two, but you can't stop them all, and you can't stop them for 40 minutes.
One stone-cold lock of a prediction: It will come down to the final minute.
Kansas is maybe the toughest team in America to put away, one that only gets stronger as a game wears on, and Kentucky is known for having to fight through dead stretches once it builds a big lead.
The writing is pretty much on the wall. Monday night will be a classic between the two winningest programs in college hoop history. Rest up.
Yahoo! Ryan Greene: Five Things to Watch on Monday Night
John Adams must be at his last wit's end. The NCAA coordinator of referees graded out all NCAA Tournament games and hand-picked what he said were the nine best referees to call the Final Four games.
And then he sat courtside Saturday night, helplessly watching his both crews in the national semifinals miss call after call -- erring in almost every block/charge situation, according to ESPN analyst Jay Bilas -- altering the way Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Kansas played the game.
In the end, Adams could only say, "You saw what I saw."
It wasn't just block/charge calls that were missed. There were missed out-of-bounds calls, erroneous traveling calls, whistles on phantom fouls and then no whistles on hard contact.
Tom Eades, Jamie Luckie and Pat Adams called the Ohio State-Kansas game. Doug Shows, Les Jones and Joe Derosa were in charge of the Kentucky-Louisville game. Their work Saturday night wasn't an anomaly; it simply continued the trend of this season and this NCAA Tournament, in particular. It's an epidemic.
"There's nothing to say about it," Adams said. "What happened, happened."
The referees were most noticeable in the last 30 seconds of the Ohio State-Kansas game.
Everyone appeared to see something different, but it was the officials who were on the hook for a series of questionable calls in Kansas' 64-62 win at the Final Four. Fans sent seat cushions flying from the stands onto the floor after the game ended.
The sequence that prompted that reaction began when Kansas center Jeff Withey thought he was about to convert a three-point play to possibly put the game away with 27 seconds to go. He caught the ball in the lane, absorbed contact and flicked the ball into the hoop.
"I was getting really excited. I thought I was going to go up, hit a free throw to go up by six or seven," he said.
Instead, Luckie blew the whistle and called traveling.
… "There is no explanation. Apparently I crossed before it hit the rim. I just knew I had to miss it. I thought that would be the best way for us to get the ball back," Craft said. "They've called it all tournament with guys going in early. It's not about that one call. That's not what lost us the game."
But the Buckeyes never got a chance to foul to extend the game. Pat Adams handed the ball to Kansas, and Ohio State was caught out of position as the Jayhawks inbounded and ran out the clock.
"It was a lane violation. Ohio State, I guess was arguing about it and Kansas was ready to put the ball in play," John Adams said. "You saw what I saw."
John Adams listened to the final moments of the broadcast, then got up and headed directly to the officials' locker room, as he does after every game. He also said it was standard procedure to review every game tape and assign scores for each referee's performance.
At the 18-minute mark of the first half, a foul charged to Kansas' Travis Releford was changed to Thomas Robinson. Officials went to the monitors, but John Adams said that the call involved a "miscommunication" between the official and the scorer's table and was within the rules to be corrected.
When pressed on what his thoughts were about the officiating in closing seconds, John Adams declined to comment.
The good news is that none of the semifinal referees will be officiating for Monday night's Kentucky-Kansas championship game. Roger Ayers, Verne Harris, Mike Stuart and Mark Whitehead are all eligible to call the game, and John Adams will select three of them.
CBS drew the highest TV ratings since 2005 for a Final Four Saturday -- although ratings were up just 1% from last year.
In fast national NCAA ratings, CBS' Kansas-Ohio St. late game drew 9.6% of U.S. TV households -- up 1% from Connecticut-Kentucky last year -- while the earlier Kentucky-Louisville game drew 8.4% of U.S. households, which was up 1% from last year's Butler-VCU. That the late game was a bigger draw was predictable: Games in later time slots, throughout TV sports, generally draw higher rates that games in earlier slot.
So far, CBS/Turner NCAA coverage is averaging 5.9% in TV game slots. That's down 5% from last year but up 4% from 2010, when CBS had its old regionalized coverage.
Historic dreaded glitch: For aspiring TV production crews, the final seconds of CBS' Kansas-Ohio St. game offered a textbook example of why you stay with live action first -- and get in the replays later. CBS didn't after a Buckeye lane violation, which it replayed where live action ensued and the game was on the line. Cardinal rule violation.
Fans watching the thrilling Kansas-Ohio State Final Four game missed the final 2.8 seconds of the game because CBS Sports cameras were showing a replay instead of the game-ending inbound play that sealed Kansas' victory.
Ohio State's Aaron Craft had just been called for a lane violation after intentionally missing a free throw with 2.8 seconds remaining in the game. While CBS was showing the replay of Craft's overenthusiastic charge toward the basket, Kansas was inbounding the ball to run off the final seconds of the game. Kansas was clinging to a two-point lead and Ohio State was out of timeouts, so the game would end if the Jayhawks could run out the clock.
That's exactly what happened, but viewers watching live on CBS didn't see it:
…CBS was busy showing the Craft replay and failed to realize that there wouldn't be any lag between the violation and inbound. As such, viewers missed almost two seconds of game play and when cameras finally caught up with the game, 1.7 seconds later, there was little more than one second left and the game was essentially over. It was completely confusing for all fans.
They weren't the only ones baffled. Ohio State players didn't understand that the inbounds would come so quickly after Craft's miss. Indeed, they look as surprised when the ball was put in play as the CBS cameras. Miscommunication in the truck and a lack of anticipation of a quick inbound are what did in CBS and forced fans to miss out on the anticlimactic end of one of the best Final Four games in recent memory.
Not that the replay being shown instead of the live play wasn't important. Craft's lane violation was a crucial error that sealed the game for Kansas.
…The network fell victim to the increasing Scorsese-ization of televised sports. Instead of showing a game with normal camera angles, directors are increasingly trying to use their dozens of different perspectives to show the game in a different way. This is why we get disorienting sky-cam shots during the game and obscured views of baseline cams while free throws are being shot. It's why networks cut to cheering fans after a made basket instead of showing the opponent start the break.
Replays are great but not at the expense of the game. Too often, directors try to tell a story through replays and different camera angles when the best move would be to show the game the way it's always been shown: The elevated mid-court camera that's been in use for 50 years. It's the best angle. Use it and don't cut from it.When you do, directors choose to try to tell a story of the game rather than showing the game itself. And that's how you end up with debacles like CBS had on Saturday night.
A Final Four Marketing Person Has Some Explaining To Do This Morning
On top of every seat at the Superdome on Saturday was a Final Four seat cushion. A nice memento for folks who made the trip to the Big Easy to bring back home with them, right? Except you have to realize that these fans are cheering for teams playing on college basketball's biggest stage, and when such a supreme victory or defeat takes place, if those fans have something they can throw out of joy or frustration, they're probably going to throw it.
The seat cushions started raining down from the upper deck before the final horn sounded in the Kentucky/Louisville game. It was impossible to tell whether they were celebratory or frustrated tosses, but it was quickly evident that they were contagious. Blue and red folks alike chucked the seat cushions from the 600 level down onto the somewhat-annoyed, somewhat-scared spectators below.
It happened again about two hours later, but with about twice as much vigor. This time, there was no question that the act was overwhelmingly celebratory as it was almost totally limited to the Kansas cheering section. Still, after a while, Jayhawks fans looked like they wanted to keep cheering the win instead of keeping their head on a swivel so they didn't get jacked in the face by a launched projectile.
Don't give fans at big sporting events keepsakes that can be thrown.
…Everyone In New Orleans Has A Picture With "In The Face Guy"
I'm serious. I haven't met anyone who hasn't seen actor Rob Riggle -- aka the "in the face" cop from The Hangover -- and taken a picture with him.
Turns out Riggle is a monster Kansas fan, so much so that if you ask to give a "go Cats" or finish an "O-H" cheer, he won't do it.
NOT UP IN HERE.
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People here are smiling, many of them wearing something with a Jayhawk on it. They laugh, high-five, toast and of course drink to one of the truly cool stories in an otherwise mostly miserable recent history of Kansas City sports. The Kansas basketball team that won’t quit is playing Kentucky for college basketball’s championship tonight.
Back home, the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since Travis Releford was 3 years old. The Royals have one winning season since 1994. Missouri and Kansas State have had nice moments, sure, but nothing quite like the national spotlight now focused on the Jayhawks.
In a different world, this would be Kansas City’s respite. Our escape. Our chance to collectively dump the disappointment that’s become the DNA of our sports existence for a shot at a championship.
But in this world, the one with our divided college sports scene, proud Kansas Citians who want nothing but the best for their hometown are working through complicated and conflicted emotions.
If you were famished, would you eat a meal cooked by your sworn enemy?
And if so, could you enjoy it?
“I hate this,” said Drew Beaven, a UMKC senior. “It’s so annoying. I like it that the Midwest is flexing and all of that. I’m a diehard MU fan, but I’m also a reasonable guy. I’m going to enjoy it a little bit, if Kansas wins. My friends will hate me saying that.
“But I’ve never seen the Royals in the playoffs. Never seen the Chiefs do really well. I’ve never seen that. I don’t have a lot to root for.”
In the last 25 years, the Royals have been mostly terrible, the Chiefs are 3-10 in the playoffs, Kansas State’s biggest moment is a Fiesta Bowl, and Missouri’s might be beating KU at Arrowhead Stadium in the 2007 regular season.
In that same time period, KU basketball has played in seven Final Fours, claimed two national championships and won more games than any program in the country.
What makes it even worse for everyone else is how this season has played out. These Jayhawks have become something of a national phenomenon because don’t most of us want our teams to be this gutsy, this persistent, this tough?
Wouldn’t most of us adore a team that wins four consecutive NCAA Tournament games that were within a point in the last four minutes?
…This is a historical powerhouse playing with the kind of guts we usually see from midmajors.
For the portion of our city that roots for the Jayhawks, this is sort of like an unplanned holiday.
For everyone else, it is much closer to a nightmare.
This is what our Kansas City sports scene is. And in a lot of important ways, this is a critical part of the fun.
“All my KU friends, I’ve been giving them so much (stuff),” said Beaven, the Mizzou fan. “I’m like: ‘Oh KU, why didn’t you guys show up for the Big 12 championship game? We were waiting for you.’ And now they’re going to win the national championship?
“That’s so annoying.”