SUB Hoopings, and whoopings

Kirk Wessler

Oh well, maybe we’ll get to see a great championship game.

Then again, maybe Memphis will simply trash Kansas the way the Tigers have dumped previous imposters en route to the final game of the NCAA basketball tournament. Or maybe Kansas will do unto Memphis what the Jayhawks have done unto others who got in their way.

If one of these Final Two trounces the other, however, you are allowed to declare this allegedly Most Fabulous Final Four, this Best Collection of Teams Ever Under One Dome ... the Big Bust.

Just what does it take to get a great game around here? You know, something good enough to inspire Michael Jackson to greatness? Or even just a game like Western Kentucky and Drake gave us back in the first round -- 200 points, with the winning 3 in the air at the buzzer -- but with players headed to the NBA?

Apparently, it takes teams better than UCLA and North Carolina, who bared their bottoms and shared woodshed moments Saturday night.

Now, it’s true that even the best of teams can go pancake on occasion. But you would think a program like UCLA’s, in the Final Four for the third year in a row, would have the jitters or the doldrums or whatever prevents a title-worthy performance worked out by now.

"Memphis was a better team today," UCLA coach Ben Howland said, after his Bruins had been crushed by the fast-and-sassy Tigers, 78-63.


How about yesterday, last week, and three months ago? How about tomorrow, next week and forever?

Give UCLA this much. The defense-first Bruins score better than their Final Four selves of 2006 and 2007. Mostly, this is because of their freshman center, Kevin Love, who can shoot and pass and set monster screens and block shots and rebound.

But Memphis neutered Love. After his quietly productive first half, the Tigers swarmed him and made Love the most invisible 6-feet-10, 271-pound all-American you have never seen. Two points and three rebounds were all he got in the final frame.

During that time, the Tigers did whatever they wanted and then, when asked about their dominance, basically said, "Of course."

"We knew we were gonna win, so there really isn’t too much to say," freshman point guard Derrick Rose said.

A lot of you fans back in Peoria got to see Rose the two seasons before this one. He was leading Chicago Simeon to a pair of state high school championships. Tune in Monday night, and you might see him lead Memphis to the NCAA title. Tune in next year at this time, and you can watch him lead an NBA team.

Rose is, without question, the best point guard in the Final Four. He might be the best college point guard in America, but he did not make any of the big all-America teams. Those of us who vote on such things should be embarrassed.

Rose turned in what has become a rather typical performance Saturday: 25 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a blocked shot. He and fellow guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, who scored a game-high 28 points and did make everybody’s all-America teams, established in the first five minutes that they could, and would, take UCLA’s vaunted defenders to the rack anytime they wanted.

Oh, it was beautiful.

"Just hooping," Rose said. "That’s what it’s all about, really, no matter what else is going on. If you’re hooping, you got nothing to worry about."

Speaking of hooping, Carolina coach Roy Williams says he likes his fast.

Well, he got to watch some really fast hoop — played by Kansas, which ran the ball down the Tar Heels’ throats.

The score was 40-12 late in the first half, following a period in which the Heels didn’t score a field goal for more than 10 minutes.

"Four passes, one shot," Kansas coach Bill Self said of his defensive strategy. "If we could make them make four passes, that means we’ve taken them out of transition and there won’t be as much rotation rebounding, and we have a better chance to hold them to one shot."

Simple and effective.

The game got five-points close midway through the second half. Then the Jayhawks turned the screws and sent their rock-chalking fans into delirium with an 84-66 victory.

This game provided a couple of rich moments.

First, retired Missouri coach Norm Stewart — one of the all-time villains in Kansas lore — was honored on the court for his induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. And the KU fans gave him a rousing ovation.

Then Williams, who jilted KU to coach Carolina, was introduced, and the Jayhawks fans let him have it. "Sit down, Roy!" they chanted.

Kansas sat him down, packed him up and sent him home.

The rest of us will stick around to see what kind of championship game Kansas and Memphis give us Monday.

KIRK WESSLER is Journal Star executive sports editor/columnist. Contact him at (309) 686-3216 or