Kansas (30-7) vs. Syracuse (29-5)
Final: Syracuse 81, Kansas 78
It was a dogfight, but Syracuse came out the victor. Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points and overcame a sore back to help his team hold on at the end.
The Jayhawks had several chances to tie the game with under a minute to go, but were unable to hit their three-point shots. In the final 1.5 seconds, Kirk Heinrich threw up a desperation three that missed badly and brought a close to the season.
Neither team shot well from the charity stripe and it proved to be the downfall of Kansas. The Jayhawks went 12-30 from the freethrow line and they were dealt a big blow when the team's co-leading scorer for the night, Keith Langford (19 points), fouled out with 5:35 left in the game.
The Orangemen seemed to have an answer for everything Kansas threw at them and they led almost the entire way.
Second half, 0:28 left: Syracuse 80, Kansas 78
Kansas went on a 14-4 run, cutting the lead to two at 80-78. The run included back-to-back alley-oops from Kirk Heinrich and Nick Collison.
Syracuse will be in the bonus the rest of the way.
Second half, 8:00 left: Syracuse 70, Kansas 60
Keith Langford, the high scorer in the last game, has four personal fouls and as a result had to sit early on in the half with about 18 minutes left to play. Despite the setback, the Jayhawks managed a 6-0 run that included a three by Michael Lee and a three point play by Kirk Heinrich after Nick Collison intercepted a pass. That run cut the Syracuse lead to three with the score at 55-52.
Despite Carmelo Anthony's sore back, Syracuse has regained control of the game after Heinrich twisted his ankle and had to sit briefly.
Halftime update: Syracuse 53, Kansas 42
Syracuse dominated the game early behind spectacular play from Gerry McNamara who has hit six of eight three-pointers. Kansas did stage a comeback, though, clamping down on defense to cut the lead to ten after an 8-0 run. The Orangmen have also come up with several big defensive plays and Carmelo Anthony has a career high in assists.
Don't count the Jayhawks out yet. They're not so far behind they can't come back and if Kirk Heinrich gets hot from beyond the arc, the'll have it tied up in no time. That said, Syracuse has been very impressive so far. Anthony has shown he's not a one dimensional player by giving the ball to other Orangemen with an open look and McNamara is on such a tear that if he contiues at his current pace, he'll smash the three-point record for a title game.
If you look at Duke's performance in the Sweet 16 recently, Kansas should lose this game. It seems like apples and oranges, but look at the facts. Since 2000, each time Duke has lost in the NCAA Tournament, the team that beat it has gone on to play in the championship game. In this case it's Kansas. The last two times, however, the team that knocked Duke off has itself fallen in the championship game (Florida lost to Michigan St. in 2000 and Indiana lost to Maryland in 2002). That's just coincidence, but the fact that Kansas coach Roy Williams finally beat Duke means more. He was 0-3 against the Blue Devils in the Tournament and one of those losses included his only other trip to the title game.
Syracuse also has a few trends it needs to buck. Like Williams, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has never won it all. He's been coaching for 27 years and been to the final game twice, but came up short both times. The first time Boeheim led the Orangemen to the championship game, it happened to be in New Orleans, the site of this year's championship. Syracuse came up with one point less than Indiana that year and went home without the trophy.
SCOop on Kansas
Kansas obliterated Marquette in the Final Four on Saturday. The game was so lopsided that the Jayhawks were up by 40 briefly and went on to win by 33. Marquette had previously pounded tournament-favorite Kentucky and looked to be on a role. Kansas put an end to that notion early and squashed all attempts at a comeback. Even Golden Eagles star Dwyane Wade had trouble coming up with an answer for the tough Kansas defense.
Sophomore Aaron Miles had 18 points, double his scoring average and two points less than his season high. His big performance spells good things for the Kansas offense – as if it needed the help. Nick Collison, perhaps the Jayhawks' best player, had just 12 points but ripped 15 rebounds out of the air and Keith Langford had his biggest tournament game to date with 23 points on 11 for 14 shooting. Kirk Heinrich chipped in with 18 points of his own.
Overall: An explosive offense coupled with the great senior leadership makes the Jayhawks a tough out.
SCOop on Syracuse
Syracuse may not have pounded its opponent, but it still came away with a convincing win over a number one seed. Though the Orangemen failed to take away the passing lanes for T.J. Ford (he had a season high 13 assists) they did take away his scoring options. He had just eight shots and converted only three of them for 12 points.
The Syracuse players did indeed have the breakout games discussed in the Final Four breakdown. Carmelo Anthony, as expected, led the way with a career high 33 points and a tournament high 14 rebounds. He seemed to score at will, making head fakes that threw his defenders off and afforded him wide open looks at the basket. Another freshman, Gerry McNamara, scored 19 points and went 3 for 8 from beyond the arc, including one amazing shot with a hand in his face. Hakim Warrick also came up with his tournament best in points with 18 and nabbed 7 rebounds.
Overall: Syracuse has a legitimate shot at the title this year if it can get at least an average performance out of Anthony and one or two other players step up again.
You can't say it enough: Senior leadership wins championships. Michigan State had Mateen Cleaves in 2000, Duke had Shane Battier in 2001, and Maryland had Juan Dixon in 2002. And Kansas? They've got Collison and Heinrich. We've picked the Jayhawks to lose twice now and would have picked them to go out three times had we done an Elite Eight preview. We've finally come to our senses after the Jayhawks notified the world it would be taking New Orleans by storm against Marquette. Sure Syracuse can still win it, but when you have to rely on as many freshmen as Boeheim does, you're going to have to contend with some butterflies during the game. The Orangemen can't afford to be queasy because, as the Jayhawks have show us, Kansas is capable of getting the knockout punch early.
Some information compiled from ESPN.com
KC Costanzo. Keith "KC" Costanzo is one of the brand-spanking-new editors-in-chief of <i>Silver Chips Online</i>. His responsibilities include maintaining the journalistic integrity of the paper and making sure no one spontaneously combusts due to the stress of deadlines. KC enjoys late night frisbee games and long hours … More »