Saturday, April 5, 2008


It's 9:15 in the east and I'm watching Kansas jump out to an early advantage over North Carolina. But I'm having trouble focusing on this game with the shock of what just happened still fresh in my mind.

It's been a long time since I've seen a team completely dominate really strong opponents like Memphis has over the past two weekends. After stumbling a bit early with a tough game against Mississippi State in the second round, Memphis has utterly destroyed Michigan State, Texas and most recently and surprisingly, UCLA. It's becoming apparent that smaller guards simply stand no chance against Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Antonio Anderson, the ridiculously big and strong Tiger backcourt. I was really disappointed to see how Texas was manhandled in the regional finals against Memphis but I now realize it had little to do with UT and everything to do with how unbelievably dominating Memphis can be.

Look at the names who have been neutralized in the past three games by the Memphis defense. Drew Neitzel, AJ Abrams, DJ Augustin, Kevin Love and Darren Collison. These are all-Americans and guys who we all know. These guys are finishing games with lines like 4-18 and 1-9 with tons of turnovers.

Not only did they destroy Darren Collison, who looked for the first time all year like he belonged on the JV squad, they made Kevin Love look human for one of the few times this season as well. Love scoring only two points in the second half would have been inconceivable if you'd told me that before the game. But sure enough, he barely could get his hands on the ball against the long arms of Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggart and he looked really tired throughout the second half. Had no one really pushed him this season?

All in all, I'm not sure I've seen a better team this year than Memphis' efforts in the last two games in particular. Derrick Rose looks like the best guard in the country, with CDR coming in a close second.

Interestingly, Memphis' lack of competition all year has been confusing in terms of deciphering their comparative talent in two ways. The first is the direction that most have taken which is to say that since they didn't really play very many good teams, we don't really know how good they are and therefore have to assume that they probably aren't as good as their record indicates. It would appear that the opposite is in fact true, which is that since they didn't play very many good teams, we didn't get a chance to see how good they really are. I don't think their opponents are making that mistake, especially at this point in the tournament, but they sure are making a lot of analysts, not to mention morons like me, look like assholes.

As good as both Kansas and Carolina are (and Kansas is crushing Carolina right now), I just can't see either of them matching Memphis in the finals, assuming Memphis can keep up the play they've perfected over the past two weekends. If they want to win, they'll absolutely have to play some zone, as correctly  stated by Dick Vitale. Memphis' offensive size and abilities going to the hoop are just too good to be left to run rampant. Switching to a zone for even a minute or two, just to change the pace and make Memphis prove they can shoot from the outside, would go a long way toward giving the Tigers' opponent a fighting chance.

No comments: