Commentary

Kansas plays the good and the bad in the rout of UNC

Originally Published: April 6, 2008
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Danny Green's 3 was on its way through the rim. And somehow, preposterously, the national semifinal had gone from game over to game on.

There were 8 minutes and 14 seconds left in a national semifinal of wild mood swings. A shocking 28-point lead had dwindled to five, seemingly in record time.

[+] EnlargeMario Chalmers
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyGood Kansas buried North Carolina with an early, stunning spurt as it made shots from everywhere on the court.

North Carolina was surging. Kansas was collapsing. A Final Four fold-up of epic proportions was in the air. Jayhawk Nation was facing a scenario so nightmarish it would make Bucknell a minor disappointment: Roy Williams was going to come back from a four-touchdown deficit to beat the school he jilted. Bill Self was going to be on his way to Stillwater under cover of darkness.

As soon as Green's shot dropped through the net, this would be a one-possession game. The pressure on the Jayhawks was about to spike.

Except Green's shot never did drop. It went as far in as any shot I've ever seen without going in, then it spun off.

"Went all the way in and came back out," Williams said.

The rebound dropped softly, almost straight down, into the hands of Carolina freshman Will Graves. Why was Graves in the game at a critical juncture of the Final Four? I have no idea, other than that the Dean Smith Coaching Bible says you play a million players, sometimes at the oddest moments.

Graves played one minute in Carolina's Sweet 16 victory over Washington State. He took a DNP in the regional final against Louisville. But here he was, getting clock in the first half and the second half against Kansas, and with the ball in his hands.

Then Will Graves did what Will Graves would be expected to do under the basket against a Kansas front line that had mauled Carolina's all night. He turned the ball over.

And then Cole Aldrich (?) made two free throws, and Sasha Kaun (!) dunked a lob, and everyone in Kansas could stand down from DEFCON 1. Carolina never again got a shot at reducing the game to a single possession. The Jayhawks closed the game on a 26-13 run. Kansas went back to being awesome, went on to beat the Tar Heels 84-66 and now moves on to the national title game against Memphis on Monday.

If Good Kansas shows up to play the Tigers, the River Walk will belong to Rock Chalk. Good Kansas made a 23-minute appearance at the Alamodome on Saturday night -- the first 15 minutes and the last eight -- looking like the Celtics. Good Kansas outscored Carolina by the staggering sum of 66-25. Good Kansas took the No. 1 team in the nation and slapped it silly.

Good Kansas is Brandon Rush slashing to the basket over and over, on his way to 25 points and seven rebounds. Good Kansas gets 10 steals. Good Kansas bludgeons the nation's best rebounding team by nine on the glass. Good Kansas holds the nation's No. 2 scoring team to 23 points below its average.

[+] EnlargeWayne Ellington
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesBad Kansas allowed Wayne Ellington to shoot the Tar Heels back into the game late in the first half and early in the second half.

Good Kansas was so good out of the gate that it looked like fiction. Good Kansas led 40-12, overwhelming the tournament's overall No. 1 seed. Good Kansas treated the lordly Heels as if they were Nebraska.

"To start the game, it didn't feel like we had 10 hands out there," coach Self said. "It felt like we had 14 or 15."

Bad Kansas played the middle 17 minutes, at times bearing a marked resemblance to the shaky team that had staggered past outmanned Davidson in the regional final the previous Sunday. Bad Kansas turned the ball over. Bad Kansas jacked up bad perimeter shots as soon as possible, lengthening a game it should have been ending. Bad Kansas was outscored 41-18.

"We went brain-dead for a little bit," Jayhawks big man Darnell Jackson said.

If Bad Kansas shows up for an extended period Monday night, Memphis will win its first national title. Bad Kansas is backup point guard Sherron Collins committing seven turnovers. Bad Kansas is Rush missing five 3-pointers. Bad Kansas is 6-foot-11 Aldrich missing a dunk.

"He tried to get crazy with the dunk," Self said. "He would have finished that if he just tried to dunk it normal, but he tried to get cute with that."

The freshman played a long and remarkable stretch for Good Kansas, though. The fourth man in Self's post rotation was pressed into extended first-half minutes because of foul trouble, and he responded with a "Psycho C" performance that outdid the national player of the year, Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough.

"He was the best player on the floor for three or four minutes," Self said.

In the first half, Aldrich had six points, six rebounds and three blocked shots -- all of which more than doubled his season averages -- for Good Kansas. He made a turnaround jumper. He followed a miss. He made free throws. He ripped rebounds away from Hansbrough, which happens approximately never.

[+] EnlargeSherron Collins
AP Photo/Matt YorkSherron Collins was the epitome of Kansas -- the good and the bad. He had 11 points and seven turnovers.

"Cole was unbelievable," Self said. "He was as good an inside performer as we had tonight."

That's part of what makes Good Kansas so good. Good Kansas has an endless supply of guys who can play.

And Good Kansas has a guy in charge who can really coach. Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, but Self owned their matchup Saturday night.

His team was so much better prepared to start the game that it was almost laughable. The Jayhawks' offensive execution was nearly perfect; they hit 13 of their first 17 shots from nearly every spot on the court. And if possible, their defense was better, aggressively doubling Hansbrough without fouling him.

Big picture, bottom line: This game should have ended the Roy Envy in Lawrence and across the state of Kansas. Self earned himself this moment in the sun, sans the shadow of his predecessor.

"There is no jealousy, no animosity between Coach Williams and myself, at least on this end," Self said.

His constituency should be over its hard feelings toward Ol' Roy now, too. It can move on magnanimously now that the team has moved on while Williams has gone home.

But if Green's 3 had dropped, the story line might have veered from celebration to devastation.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.