Special to the Star-Telegram
Was it the biggest choke job we’ve seen on championship night or was it a great comeback and a tribute to perseverance?
Five days after my Final Four trip to San Antonio I’m still trying to figure out if I saw: Memphis gagging the national championship or Kansas pulling off a miracle.
I’ve got to call it a choke job. That might be considered a cruel thing to say about student-athletes, but they had the final game of the season won and gave it away with missed free throws.
The Jayhawks are the 2008 national champions because Memphis stars Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts missed four straight free-throw attempts in the final 75 seconds of regulation.
If just one of those had splashed through the net, Memphis would have cut down the nets. After the game Tigers coach John Calipari admitted it was a game his team should have won. “Ten seconds to go, we’re thinking we’re national champs,” Calipari said. “All of a sudden, we’re not.”
KU outscored them in overtime to capture their first title in 20 years, 75-68.
When N.C. State shocked Houston in 1983, the Cougars’ inability to make shots at the charity stripe cost them the title. Same goes for the 1987 Syracuse Orangemen, who couldn’t put Indiana away.
Rose and Douglas-Roberts will go on to have NBA careers, but I imagine they will have a hard time sleeping at night for the next six months. You have nightmares when you lose championships like that.
KU coach Bill Self was brilliant in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime. He got his kids to keep believing they had a chance, even when they were down nine with 2:12 left in the game. Self also came up with a brilliant plan that thumped top seed North Carolina in the semis.
For Calipari and Memphis it will be one game film I’m sure they will never watch, but we all saw the night the Tigers let the national title slip from their hands.
Newy Scruggs is the sports director at NBC 5.