Commentary

After two duds, title game can't be any worse

Originally Published: April 6, 2008
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Not one, but two pillow smotherings?

[+] EnlargeTyler Hansbrough
AP Photo/Eric GayTyler Hansbrough always found Jayhawks between himself and the basket.
Turns out the NCAA wasn't kidding when it kept flashing, "The Road Ends Here," on those six Alamodome big screens Saturday night. I mean, Memphis beat UCLA, 78-63, and it turned out to be the close game of the two national semis.

Meanwhile, your overall No. 1 seed, North Carolina, also was forced off the Final Four road. Actually, insurance adjusters will note that the Tar Heel-mobile fell into the sinkhole known as Kansas' amphetamine offense and freeze-wrap defense. That hole was very deep and very dark.

Carolina trailed by as many as 28 points in the first half, exhausted itself while somehow cutting the lead to four, but couldn't keep the pedal to the comeback metal forever. When KU put together another burst later in the second half, the Tar Heels, said Carolina guard Wayne Ellington, "kind of gave in."

Kansas kind of won, 84-66. If you have KU-Memphis in your title game bracket, congratulations.

That means you, Brandon Rush.

"Yeah, I definitely expected this matchup because Memphis is a great school," said the star Jayhawks guard.

Harvard is a great school, but it's not in the Final Four. What he meant to say is that Memphis and KU cracked UCLA and North Carolina like walnuts. That's what makes Saturday night's routs so unsatisfying.

So what did we learn about the Final Four now that it's been reduced to two?

Well, we learned that nobody knows anything.

We also learned that even though Carolina's Roy Williams said this might be the best Final Four in history, it isn't. At least, the two semifinal games weren't.

OK, all those who publicly said Memphis was going to turn the Bruins into the Guy Lewises -- and do it with surprising ease -- please raise your hands. You had to predict a mini-blowout days ago or it doesn't count.

UCLA played deader than Elvis and Colonel Parker combined. And because of it, Bruins coach Ben Howland sadly becomes the new Lewis, which isn't a good thing.

[+] EnlargeJoey Dorsey
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyAmerica likely wasn't, but Joey Dorsey was thrilled with UCLA's hold-your-nose performance.

Lewis led Houston and its basketball fraternity, Phi Slama Jama, to three consecutive Final Fours. Lost each time. Just like Howland and Phi Phlunka April.

The Bruins tried. They always try. But we got a revealing glimpse into the UCLA psyche a day before the game.

Reporter to Bruins point guard Darren Collison: "What kind of problems do you think [Memphis'] guards will cause you?"

Collison: "I don't think their guards will cause us problems."

And they didn't. Instead, they caused cluster migraines. Nightmares. Collison is going to need at least a half dozen sessions with Dr. Paul on "In Treatment."

He's listening, Darren.

Anyway, the Tigers' Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman Derrick Rose combined for 53 of Memphis' 78 points. You could add Collison's missed shots (8), rebounds (4), fouls (5), points (2), assists (4) and turnovers (5), and it would just match Douglas-Roberts' point total (28).

And can someone check Rose's birth certificate and/or his Memphis admission papers. He can't really be a freshman, can he?

Nice box score line: 25 points (11-for-12 from the free-throw line), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 little turnover. Wonder what the Miami Heat's Pat Riley was thinking if he watched Rose.

And, oh, that stuff about Memphis not being able to shoot free throws? The Tigers knew how to shoot them Saturday night (20-for-23, 87 percent). Check that -- CDR and Rose knew how to shoot them. They were the only two Tigers who reached the line.

There were three lead changes in the Memphis game, and it all happened in the first five minutes. After that, the Tigers squirmed ahead and stayed ahead.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Bob Donnan/US PresswireAre we sure Derrick Rose was born in 1988 and not 1978?

Kansas never trailed. For the first 15 minutes of the game, as they built that 40-12 lead, the Jayhawks looked as though they could have given the Boston Celtics a problem or two.

I had figured we'd have a pair of pantyhose games. You know, skintight.

Instead, we got a combined 33 points of blowouts. The unimaginable also happened in the KU game: Walk-ons got on the court. Go figure.

All those wonderful Saturday night subplots were deposited in the Alamodome's Dumpsters. What a shame.

Williams facing his former employer of 15 years? Didn't matter. KU fans seemed more interested in watching the Jayhawks win than watching Williams suffer.

Memphis center Joey Dorsey against UCLA freshman center Kevin Love? Didn't quite work out. For some reason, the Bruins forgot to feed the ball into the post. Love had only two more shots than Collison.

Hansbrough strengthening his case as the nation's best big man? Uh, not so much. He couldn't get the ball, either. And when he did, there were usually three KU defenders superglued to his hip.

In short, we thought we were going to get a tournament repeat of, say, Kansas vs. Davidson … Memphis vs. Mississippi State … UCLA vs. Texas A&M … North Carolina vs. -- well, never mind about the Tar Heels.

Instead, we got a Mississippi Valley State Jr.

Maybe Monday evening will be better. It can't be any worse.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter