All in the Wrist: Jayhawks never stopped believing

There were a handful of times early in the second half of the national championship game Monday night when Mario Chalmers' sloppy play helped Kansas squander its five-point halftime lead.There were even more times throughout the second half when it seemed Sherron Collins was single-handedly throwing the basketball game away.Therein lies the story of Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks - the 2008 National Champion Jayhawks.Much has been written about the Jayhawks' toughness defensively, and defensive toughness had plenty to do with Kansas' 75-68 overtime victory over Memphis. But there's another ingredient to it that was an equally big factor Monday night. The other half of the Jayhawks' toughness blend has been their refusal to give up on one another. They don't doubt; they adjust.That's why Chalmers remained in the game after a few gaffes. That's why Self, KU's fifth-year coach, didn't hesitate to leave Collins in the game after a series of his mistakes contributed to a large deficit late in regulation.The same guys who made mistakes turned in the biggest plays as KU erased a nine-point deficit in the final 2:12 of regulation with clutch plays, defensive wizardry and a whole lot of luck Memphis clanked four of five free throws during the final minute and a half.It's a feat that required suspending reality to believe.But Self never doubted his guys would redeem themselves or die trying. That's why he wasn't surprised to see Collins pull off an acrobatic steal while falling out of bounds and then bury a three-pointer seconds later that whittled the deficit to five points. That's also why he wasn't shocked to see Chalmers bury a guarded, fadeaway three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to cap the rally and force overtime. It was the same play KU ran at the end of losses to Texas and Oklahoma State, and the third time was the charm.You could compare it to Rocky, only that's not fair to Kansas. Rocky, after all, was scripted (Perhaps a [Goonies][1] reference would be more appropriate?). This was straight up improv.The knock that critics put on Kansas entering the tournament was that it didn't know who its go-to player was. North Carolina had Tyler Hansbrough, Memphis had the electric Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose. Kansas, the critics said, had too much balance - like that was supposed to be a bad thing.Only analyst Jay Bilas seemed to get it. That supposed weakness turned out to be Kansas' greatest strength. The Jayhawks contained their opponents' supposed go-to guys and countered with an eight-man arsenal of scorers and defensive stoppers that guarded like gnats, hustled like thieves and made plays like Jordan in crunch time.The Jayhawks were too tough to quit; too determined to doubt; too committed to the concept of "team" to let each other down.They never stopped believing, and that made cutting down the nets that much sweeter. [1]:


Will Babbit 14 years, 11 months ago

Oddly enough that's what they kept playing in the Granada, the crowd would go nuts when they did...

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