Part of Jeff Borzello's epic National Championship Game Preview
Five Key Questions
1. Can Kansas’ guards slow down the high-scoring Memphis backcourt? Heading into its game against UCLA on Saturday, the key match-up was obviously UCLA’s perimeter defense against the duo of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Many thought Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook could contain them; that was completely off-base. Rose constantly got to the basket on whoever was guarding him, while CDR was able to score in a variety of ways. The Jayhawks have a group of very good defensive guards, including Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers. However, both are 6-1 – the exact aspect of Collison that Memphis took advantage of. Brandon Rush has the height and length to give Douglas-Roberts problems, but Kansas needs to keep Rose out of the lane.
2. Will Joey Dorsey and the Memphis big men stay out of foul trouble? For much of the season, foul trouble has proven to be a problem for the Tigers, especially on the interior. Dorsey is one of the best interior defenders and rebounders in the country, but he has a propensity to get into early foul trouble. Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart both struggle in that area as well. However, the three did a solid job of staying on the floor against Kevin Love and UCLA. Dorsey and Taggart both picked up three fouls, but the trio combined for 79 minutes of floor time. Darrell Arthur leads a deep and talented Kansas frontline; Memphis needs its big men – especially Dorsey – to be on the court.
3. Will either team be able to consistently knock down three-pointers? Although both teams are extremely balanced and can score in a variety of ways, both inside and outside, each squad needs to be able to hit its three-pointers in order to win the game. Both teams shot just 33 percent from behind the arc in their semifinal wins, but the winner will have to do better on Monday night. On the season, Kansas hit nearly 40 percent of its attempts, while Memphis – who shot almost 200 more threes than Kansas – knocked down just 35 percent from deep. Both teams love getting up and down the court, and transition threes get momentum going in a hurry. However, both teams need to be able to hit them in a half-court setting as well.
4. Whose bench will come up bigger? Which team will have the unsung player that makes a difference? This may not seem as important as the other ones, but it is. In the championship game, players are going to have to step up in order for their team to win. Some of those unsung players are going to come off the bench. Both teams can go fairly deep down the roster. Memphis might be the deepest team in the country, and Shawn Taggart has been a huge factor in the NCAA Tournament. He is a tough match-up due to his size, athleticism and length down low. Three-point marksman Doneal Mack could make a difference too. On the other side, Sherron Collins is one of the best sixth men in the nation – he played 30 minutes against North Carolina. He is tough to defend. Cole Aldrich was a factor against the Tar Heels; he and Sasha Kaun need to make plays inside.
5. Who will be the go-to-guy to step up down the stretch? Neither team got to this point by riding one player. Memphis has options galore up-and-down the roster, but it relies on two players when it counts. Derrick Rose is one of the most difficult point guards in the country to defend because of his size and strength, while Chris Douglas-Roberts might have been the best pure scorer at the Final Four. One of those two will get the ball down the stretch. For Kansas, this category is even more important. The Jayhawks were arguably the most balanced team in the country, but they never established a go-to-guy. Brandon Rush can score in different ways; Mario Chalmers can shoot clutch threes and get to the basket; and Sherron Collins might be the best one-on-one player they have. One of them will have to step up at the end of the game and get a basket.
The Complete Championship Game Preview includes our prediction, player analysis, and more