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News » Give and Go: Grading Memphis and Kansas

Give and Go: Grading Memphis and Kansas

Give and Go: Grading Memphis and Kansas
Charlie Zegers: For the first 37-and-change minutes of Monday's NCAA championship game, I was planning for this column to be an extended treatise on my man-love of Derrick Rose and some theories on how I could guarantee the Knicks a top-two pick in the upcoming lottery.

But my faith was shaken by that last 2:12.

Three things, actually, bothered me deeply about that game. The missed free throws, obviously, were the big thing.

The more disturbing part, though, was the fact that missing those free throws seemed to take both Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts out of their games completely. Maybe I'm reading too much into what I saw, but it seemed to me they stopped driving to the basket, almost like they didn't want to risk another trip to the line, for fear they'd put up more bricks. I don't think it was a coincidence the missed free throws and Memphis' championship-killing six-minute drought from the field happened simultaneously.

The third thing was actually a piece of insight from Billy Packer, which is remarkable in and of itself, but the ol' curmudgeon did have a good point or two when he wasn't telling us how many possessions the team behind needed to tie the game. (Thank you Billy. We can divide by three just as well as you can.)

At one point, Packer noted that Rose was much more effective when Memphis didn't try to run him off screens. He was at his best taking his man one-on-one off the dribble. And ya know, I think he was right. But here's my problem with that. We were in the last five minutes of Memphis' 40th game of the season, and their point guard, their floor leader, is most comfortable and effective operating OUTSIDE the set offense?!?

It's almost like he's a Knick already!

Anything else you noticed in the Final Four? Are you sold on Rose? Would you rather have Michael Beasley? Did you particularly like any of the other pro prospects who played this weekend?

And speaking of the pros — since that's the point of this column and all — we're pretty close to locking down the playoff pairings. Who do you like for that eight seed in the West?

Chris Liss: First off, I have to admit I was only partially able to watch the game, because it coincided with my XM show, and though I tried to watch it and interview my guests at the same time (as you can hear if you click through), I couldn't pay it as much attention as I would have liked.

Secondly, I don't know much about college hoops — only that I took second in my pool and won some money because I had Kansas winning it all. The strangest thing about that game — besides the fact Memphis had the game wrapped up and gave it away three times — is that all the pundits were exactly right about that team. And the pundits are almost never right.

The conventional wisdom was that Memphis was a tremendous team that would run into trouble in close games because of its free throw shooting. And sure enough, they cruised through the tournament in blowouts and lost because of their struggles at the line. Seems obvious now, but things almost never go as scripted. The other thing that struck me about the Final Four was that UCLA and UNC looked like college teams playing against the pros. Memphis and Kansas looked like they were playing at a completely different speed, one they sustained against each other.

I don't know about Rose. I haven't watched him play enough to have a strong opinion. All things being equal, you probably take the point guard over the power forward. Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups run the show for five of the top eight teams in the league, and Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd and Baron Davis are on teams 9-11. But the missed free throws are disturbing, because they're an indication of how he performs under pressure. I've heard him compared to Dwyane Wade, but Wade knocks those down in that situation.

As for the eight-seed in the West, here's who Golden State plays over its last five games: home against Sacramento, home against Denver (huge game), home against the Clippers, at Phoenix and home against Seattle.

You figure they should win three of those (let's say they go 2-1 against the bad teams and split against Phoenix-Denver).

Denver plays at the Clippers, at Golden State, at Utah and at home against Houston and Memphis.

I think their schedule is harder, because the Golden State matchup is on the road, at Utah is very tough and Houston isn't likely to be a cakewalk, either. I'd put the over-under for them at 2.5 wins. So, I think Golden State's the favorite, but at the same time, if Denver wins the head to head matchup, that more than bridges the gap.

So, it'll really come down to that head to head game, with the difference being that Golden State could lose that game and still get that last spot, but I don't think Denver can. (Right now, I think Denver has the tiebreaker edge, winning two of three games against Golden State, but if Golden State were to win the head to head matchup, then they'd be tied, and it would go to in-conference winning percentage (which would also be tied). Then it would go to in conference winning percentage against playoff teams, and I haven't bothered to research that.

But like I said, if Golden State beats Denver head to head, I think the Nuggets will have a hard time keeping pace, because they have two other road games and tougher matchups over all.

Of course, the other variable is whether Phoenix or Houston or Utah gets locked into its seed and decides to rest players. It's hard to predict that at this point.

The bottom line? I think it'll come down to whoever wins the head to head game (which should be very exciting). Because the Warriors are at home, I'd have to give them the edge, even though I think Denver has the slightly better team.

Do you agree?

Charlie Zegers: I'm still stunned at how effective the Kansas defense turned out to be. In two straight games, they made North Carolina and Memphis look like rec leaguers for extended stretches. That's damned impressive, especially given the fact the Jayhawks really don't have an obvious future NBA star on their roster (though I like Darrell Arthur a lot).

I think you're right about the Warriors. I'd give Golden State a big edge over just about any team in the league if the game is played in Oakland. The big wild card, though, is the Rockets. Alston and McGrady are hurting. If they aren't 100 percent, or if Adelman decides to rest them, Houston looks a lot less imposing in a game that Denver will obviously need a lot more.

Chris Liss: My pal Brad Evans over at Yahoo! Sports has been talking up Kansas' defensive efficiency rating all year. I think they finished second to Wisconsin. And even though Memphis had the game won, there were certainly stretches where Kansas bottled them up. I like Mario Chalmers, but I guess he's a little small for a shooting guard. I'm not high on Brandon Rush. His game strikes me as a little unpolished for the pros, where his athleticism won't stand out so much.

I don't see Adelman holding McGrady out if anything's at stake, and Alston would probably need to play to get back into rhythm before the playoffs start. But certainly Denver would have a lot more urgency fighting for its life than Houston to move from sixth to fifth.

Article first appeared on 4/9/08

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 9, 2008


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