UK vs. Kansas – 3 things to watch in National Championship game

Photo by Latara Appleby | Staff

1. Player of the Year debate settled — Anthony Davis went to Sunday’s press conference with his jersey draped around his neck like a cape.

Maybe Kansas forward Thomas Robinson saw it. Maybe he didn’t. Either way, his comments about Davis were telling:
“Anthony Davis is a great player,” Robinson said, “but he’s not Superman.”

He may not be, but on Monday, the two get the chance to prove themselves superior to the other. They ran 1-2 in the national player of the year race all season. Davis has come out on top in every one to date, with just one major award (the Naismith) left as of Sunday. But the title game gives both the opportunity to prove their worth on the court instead of on a ballot.

2. Defensive spectacular — UK ranks first in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (37.4 percent). Kansas ranks second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (37.9 percent).

So, yeah, every point will matter.

Both teams have developed dominant defenses by protecting the basket. They each hold opponents to 39.8 shooting inside the 3-point arc, tied for best in the nation. And this interior defense is a function of their shot-blockers. For UK, it’s Davis, who leads the country in blocks per game (4.6). For Kansas, it’s Jeff Withey, who ranks fourth in the country in blocks per game (3.6).

“I don’t think any players are coming to the hole,” Davis said. “On either team. It’s going to be a challenge.”

It will be a challenge for both teams to score, so this game might come down to which team can make shots, either by controlling the inside or heating up from outside. It sounds simplistic, but simple doesn’t mean it’s not true.

3. Calipari’s redemption — John Calipari may not have re-watched the 2008 national championship game, when his Memphis team blew a nine-point lead with 2:12 left in regulation to lose in overtime to Kansas.

“That tape was flung out the door of the bus as we were going to the plane,” Calipari said. “I have never looked at that tape, nor will I.”

But he still remembers it.

It was his first national title appearance, and he watched his team’s sizable lead slip away as they missed four of five free throws down the stretch. Now he gets his second appearance against the same coach (Bill Self) and the same school (Kansas) at which he began his coaching career as an assistant, from 1983-85, and met his wife.

The personal connections are nice, but the biggest professional connection he has with that program remains the title-game loss.
Calipari can erase all those questions, and more, with a win on Monday.