|Memphis is on such a roll, even foul shooting hasn't been a problem|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 07 April 2008 11:17|
Yeah, you read that right: MORE accurate.
The Tigers, who had the worst free-throw percentage of all 65 teams in the field, hit 70.2 percent of their foul shots on the way to the title game, topping the 68.8 percent shot by the five teams they beat.
And, get this: Kansas entered Monday night's championship game making 65.9 percent in the NCAA tournament.
``I think I have mentally tough kids,'' Memphis coach John Calipari said. ``If they're relaxed, they're going to make free throws.''
The Tigers might have tensed up a bit in a second-round game against Mississippi State, making only 15-of-32. It also was their only close game, a three-point victory.
``I thought that was an eye-opener,'' said All-American guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. ``We felt a lot of games were going to be close this tournament, so we talked amongst each other and said 'We have to make these free throws.' But they really haven't been close, so free throws really haven't been a burden.''
Actually, good foul shooting the first 30 minutes is part of the reason the last 10 minutes haven't turned into a free throw contest - with Douglas-Roberts leading the way.
Since the Mississippi State game, he's gone 11-of-12 against Michigan State, 14-of-17 against Texas, then 9-of-11 in the national semifinal against UCLA.
Freshman Derrick Rose went 4-of-9 against Mississippi State. Since then, he's 24-of-27.
Calipari doesn't believe in serious free-throw drills because he figures it becomes a negative experience. So he came up with a game in which players go head-to-head, best-of-5, with the winners advancing.
Although the contest aspect was fun, most laughs came while guys were at the line, when the only rule was no tackling.
``You can yell, make noise, run up and down, throw anything across them to try to distract them,'' forward Robert Dozier said.
Dozier said backup point guard Willie Kemp has a dance that is the most distracting. Kemp's description: ``I just go crazy up there, doing anything to make them miss. It works a lot. But most of the time it doesn't, because we have great free-throw shooters on this team.''
The stats show he's right, at least during the NCAA tournament.
HIGH STEAKS: Regardless of which team wins Monday night, a governor will have a nice, meaty meal soon.
In the usual wager between elected officials, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen put up pork ribs from Memphis' famous Rendevous restaurant against steaks offered up by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
The bet came with an appetizer of trash-talking.
``A side of Jayhawk will be especially tasty with a nice Kansas steak, after the Memphis Tigers give us our first championship victory of the week,'' Bredesen said.
Sebelius' retort: ``The Jayhawks are especially good at defeating tigers, even those from Memphis,'' she said, referring to Kansas' instate rivals, the Kansas State Wildcats.
ON THE HIGH Cs: The Kansas and Memphis pep bands got warmed up early, commandeering a couple of passenger barges and blaring their fight songs while floating along the River Walk canal.
Each school took a boat for its band and another for the cheerleaders, and they spent an hour making loops around the downtown channel. Fans from both teams jammed pedestrian bridges, overpasses and the walkways to show their colors and playfully shout down the opposing side.
No hijinks on the high seas, either, when the boats passed each other in tight quarters. Good thing Memphis made the Final Four rather than another team from Conference USA such as East Carolina - no need for any Pirates here.
TEAMING UP: Eager to improve all areas of youth basketball in America, the NBA, NCAA and several other leaders in the sport are teaming up.
NBA commissioner David Stern and NCAA president Myles Brand announced Monday a business venture to benefit pre-collegiate boys and girls and their parents, coaches, officials and supporters of the game.
``The end product will be improving the on-the-court and off-the-court skills of young players, whether they ultimately make it to the NBA or they don't,'' NBA commissioner David Stern.
The initiative is still being put together and does not yet have a title. Executives from USA Basketball, high school athletics and sports apparel companies joined Stern and Brand for the announcement in San Antonio.
``This is the most profound thing we've done since I've been in basketball,'' said Georgia Tech men's coach Paul Hewitt, head of the Black Coaches Association.
RAMBLIN' PREDICTION: The last time the Final Four was in San Antonio, Georgia Tech played in the finals. This time, three Georgia Tech engineering professors are predicting the winner based on a computer ranking system they developed.
The ramblin' result: Congrats, Kansas.
Tech's system goes by the acronym LRMC, which stands for Logistic Regression Markov Chain. According to a news release, it ``uses basic scoreboard data: teams played, home court advantage and margin of victory.''
What makes the system worth mentioning? It predicted the Final Four.
LRMC also was right in calling Georgetown, Connecticut, Drake and Vanderbilt as ``significantly overrated.'' All four were gone the first weekend.
As for upset picks, LRMC correctly identified West Virginia and Kansas State.
``But LRMC did not predict Davidson's Cinderella run,'' the release said. ``Like every other ranking system, LRMC failed to identify Davidson as underrated.''
AP National Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.