By: Andrew Kahn
As Jim Nantz said while confetti rained inside New Orleans’ Superdome, the Kentucky Coronation is complete. The Wildcats, the nation’s best team all season, beat Kansas last night 67-59 for the school’s eighth national championship. The better team played the better game, and that’s why Kentucky led by 14 at half and never let the Jayhawks get closer than five in the second half.
Bow to the Brow
Anthony Davis, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, dominated last night despite making just one field goal, a baseline jumper with 5:13 remaining as the shot clock was winding down. Davis became the first player in championship game history to record at least 15 rebounds (he had 16) and five blocks (he had six). He tacked on a game-high five assists and three steals. Davis shot 1-for-10 from the field and scored just six points, and yet who could argue he didn’t play an exceptional game?
The little things
A lot had to go right for Kansas to pull off the upset, but the Jayhawks didn’t get many breaks. They missed several dunks and five free throws, little things that matter even more when you’re the underdog. After a defensive rebound under his own basket, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson had it poked away by Davis; Terrence Jones picked it up and dunked it to extend Kentucky’s lead to 16 in the second half.
The three-point shot was critical for Kentucky in the second half. Kansas was showing signs of life, cutting the deficit to 10 midway through the second half, when Doron Lamb hit back-to-back threes to make it 54-38. Lamb finished with a game-high 22 on 7-of-12 shooting. With less than three minutes left and Kansas on an 8-0 run to trim the margin to seven, Marquis Teague nailed a triple to give the Wildcats some breathing room. Every time Kansas threatened, Kentucky had an answer.
Kansas has a formidable frontcourt with Robinson, a projected lottery pick, and 7-footer Jeff Withy. But the Jayhawks were bothered all night by Kentucky’s length and athleticism on the interior. The Wildcats blocked 11 shots and altered countless others. Early on, perhaps deterred by Kentucky’s aggressive defense, Kansas tried to score in transition, playing at a tempo that clearly favored the ’Cats.
Lack of thrills
The 2012 NCAA Tournament is officially history, and after 67 games there was not a single buzzer beater. The post-Tourney music video, “One Shining Moment,” has been criticized in recent years for not showing enough of the exciting moments. This year, the producers were hard-pressed to fill the three minutes, mostly highlighting impressive dunks. Kentucky was certainly a worthy champion and there were plenty of close games and memorable moments (see: Norfolk State and Lehigh), but March didn’t have quite as much madness this year.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local who has written for ESPN the Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.