Championship Game: Fearless Prediction

April 7th, 2008

Part of Jeff Borzello's epic National Championship Game Preview

Memphis vs Kansas: The Winner is...

This game is going to be outstanding. After Saturday's Final Four contests, I sure hope it is. For the second year in a row, it is a No. 1 vs. a No. 1 – although that was a foregone conclusion given what the Final Four was comprised of. Both teams are obviously extremely talented, with future pros up and down the respective rosters, and have been tested all season. The two teams have combined for just four losses all season, and neither team wants to drop another one. I’m expecting a terrific battle.

If Memphis is going to continue its dream season, it will need to do several things in order to get the win. First, it will need to get big games from Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts again. Both players were unbelievable in the semifinals and have really carried the team over the past couple of weeks. They need to continue to be aggressive and get off to good starts. Furthermore, a third option will have to step up. If those two get bottled up or at least slowed down, someone else has to be able to contribute offensively. Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier are candidates. As for free-throw shooting, as long as Rose or CDR have the ball late, it won’t be a factor. Defensively, Joey Dorsey needs to stay on the floor. He was a major factor against UCLA and Kevin Love, and has the ability to dominate the boards at both ends of the floor against Kansas. The Jayhawks struggle to rebound the ball at times; Dorsey needs to take advantage of that, but he can only do that if he stays out of foul trouble. Furthermore, the Tigers need to force turnovers and get easy baskets. Kansas had 19 turnovers against North Carolina, and can be prone to careless passes. Memphis needs to take advantage of that, so they can push the pace and get transition offense.

On the other side, Kansas also has to do a variety of things if it wants to win the national championship. The key will be its defense. The Jayhawks have plenty of individual defensive talent on the perimeter – but so did UCLA, and we all saw what happened when they tried to guard Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Slowing those two down should be number one on the priority list for KU. Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush have a tough assignment. The Jayhawks also need to rebound the ball and limit second opportunities for Memphis. Kansas has struggled at times to grab defensive boards, but it needs to make sure to rebound and not allow Memphis to get multiple chances at points. Furthermore, competing for offensive boards slows down Memphis’ transition game. Offensively, Kansas has to get the ball down low to Darrell Arthur and the other big men early and often. Arthur got several touches at the outset of the North Carolina game, and converted for baskets inside. However, the Jayhawks’ guards sometimes forget about him in the paint and he does not get involved in the offense. Kansas also needs to take care of the ball and not give Memphis easy baskets. The Tigers’ thrive on turnovers and mistakes, and the Jayhawks had a problem with that against North Carolina. They can’t have a repeat of that.

As a stark contrast to the previous two Final Four games, I have a feeling this game is going to come down to the final minutes. Both teams are loaded all over their rosters, and they have both been excellent since the outset of the season. However, I’m going with the team I picked No. 1 at the beginning of the season – Memphis. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts have been unstoppable lately, and they have the scoring ability to overcome Kansas’ defensive pressure, while Joey Dorsey will control the inside. Too many turnovers and not enough outside shots late in the game will be Kansas’ downfall as John Calipari will get his first national championship.

Prediction: Memphis 78, Kansas 74

The Complete Championship Game Preview includes our prediction, player analysis, and more