Anthony Davis was named to everything you can think of during the week leading to the national championship game – from Conference Awards, to a consensus All-American to all the Player of the year awards. Kansas focused defensively, mainly, on stopping him. They did, in a way, but didn’t have enough for the rest, going down, not without a fight, losing 67-59 to the best team in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats, winning their first national title since 1998.
It’s a story of a head coach who’s appreciated but also highly criticized for his recruiting methods and policy. The One-and-Done finally brought him a title after making the trip to the final four three times before and falling short, including this Kansas team in 2008 while Calipari was coaching Memphis.
Bill Self beat Calipari in that final game, but there was too much talent for his guys to handle. They did limit Anthony Davis to 6 points, making only one field goal in ten attempts. But Davis contributed in everything else, including where he’s most efficient – defending the basket, blocking six shots, breaking the record for most rejections by a Freshman, and changing countless others.
Kansas just couldn’t score anything easily, fighting and clawing their way for every basket. Davis grabbed 16 rebounds as well, dished 5 assists. The complete package. The next number one pick in the draft. But he certainly didn’t do it alone, as the Wildcats proved again they’re too deep, too talented for anyone else in the nation.
You can say about the Wildcats that they’re a team of stars, but they work harder than anyone else on the floor, outhustling Kansas for most of the loose balls. They didn’t manage to create too many turnovers and get too many moments of a running game, but the one big break they got in the first half, later bringing the lead to as much as 16, was too much for the Jayhawks to erase.
With the paint was harder to penetrate with Robinson and Withey inside, Kentucky simply hit the outside shots, especially Doron Lamb. Not just building the big lead, but killing the momentum of Kansas’ comeback in the second half. Lamb led the scoring in the game with 22 points and three tres. Kansas have been in tight games all tournament longs, making an impressive comeback against Ohio State, but there was just too much to handle against the Wildcats.
Thomas Robinson was huge. He finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds, but life against Anthony Davis in the paint is practically hell in the college level, finishing with only 6-17 from the field. Withey finished with 7 rebounds and 4 blocks, but didn’t get much going offensively, finishing with 5 points.
Tayshawn Taylor was great with 19 points as well, hitting his first three pointer in a long time, but got warmed up too late. Kansas didn’t get anything from their bench, which was probably their only chance to somehow surprise Kentucky. No team in the nation, except for maybe a healthy North Carolina, could go toe to toe with the Wildcats’ top 6 players. They hardly needed Darius Miller, finishing with only 6 points, as Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague scored in Double figures as well.
Unlike the pros, looking ahead into the future is harder. It all depends on who stays and who goes. Both teams will probably be losing more than just a player or two in the upcoming NBA draft. Anthony Davis is gone, so will probably be Kidd-Gilchrist. Lamb and Terrence Jones also look like early ship jumpers. Darius Miller is a senior. Same scenario for Kansas, with Withey and Robinson, Juniors, probably moving on. Taylor is a senior.
Calipari will probably recruit, once again, the best class in the nation, or something close to it. For Kansas and Bill Self, the return to the top of College Basketball, or just being near it, will probably take a bit longer.