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NCAA men's championshipKansas vs. Memphis | 9 tonight, Ch. 10, 1010-AM

Memphis, Kansas meet tonight for NCAA title

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — It's unlikely the Memphis Tigers and the Kansas Jayhawks had to invest much time in poring over some voluminous scouting report for tonight's NCAA championship game.

"When I look at Kansas, it's like looking at us," Memphis senior forward Joey Dorsey said Sunday afternoon. "We're mirror images."

The similarities between them are that striking.

And familiarity breeds, in this case, an abbreviated report on strengths and weaknesses and tendencies.

"You look at their team, they move up and down the floor very well; so do we," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "They have athletic, big guys that can defend on the perimeter, and so do we. So there's a lot of similarities. Now, the way they run their offense is different than the way we run it, but the philosophy's still the same: Get the ball to the paint."

"Oh, yeah, our teams are similar," echoed Memphis coach John Calipari, adding the players are the "same" in that they all "go after it; they're very aggressive."

At a feverish pace.

"They're just like us and we're just like them so it's going to be like playing a pickup game," Kansas junior guard Mario Chalmers said.

"It's going to be fun for both teams and it's going to be a great game to watch because we both like pushing the ball," added Memphis junior All-America guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. "We don't want to slow the ball down. We feel the halfcourt game is boring and I know you guys think so, too."

But perhaps most telling — and unusual in this day and age — is that both the Tigers (38-1) and the Jayhawks (36-3) embrace the rather old-fashioned notion that selflessness is the key to success.

• Consider that Kansas' leading scorer is junior guard Brandon Rush (a modest 13.4). That's not even among the top 10 in the Big 12 Conference.

But Self has preached balance, balance, balance. He has seven players averaging at least seven points. Each is also averaging nearly 18 or more minutes.

"We have a lot of players who can come off the bench at any time and we have guys who can go off at any time," sophomore forward Darrell Arthur said. "It just hurts the defense that we play against. You can't worry about one person. You have to worry about every guy on the floor."

"We all know that we have to make sacrifices and some give up scoring, while others give up something else for the sake of the team," echoed senior guard Russell Robinson. "It pays off."

Senior center Sasha Kaun, from Melbourne's Florida Air Academy, was a starter much of his sophomore and junior seasons, but started the first five this season then moved to a backup behind senior forward Darnell Jackson, who produced a standout season. Kaun has also been solid.

"It was good for the team and we played better," Kaun said.

• The Tigers have two main scorers, Douglas-Roberts and freshman point guard Derrick Rose, a third-team All-American. And they have been even more productive in the NCAA Tournament.

Still, like Kansas, the Tigers have scoring threats at every spot on the floor (and several off the bench) and their dribble-drive offense is predicated on the creating opportunities for everyone.

"I'm coaching a Dream Team," Calipari said. "They get along, they respect coaching and they take on their roles and they do it."

Just look at Dorsey's stat line from Saturday. He didn't score a point. But he had 15 rebounds and stayed out of serious foul trouble as he helped contain UCLA's Kevin Love.

"He was fine (with not scoring)," Calipari said. "The guys off the bench? I didn't play them that much. Why? Because Chris and Derrick Rose had it going. Shawn Taggart came off the bench because (Robert) Dozier was struggling and did his thing. But that's what's happened for us all year."

"Memphis has done a great job of sharing the ball," Self said. "They've got their roles very well defined and guys have accepted their roles, just like these guys (here) have."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

Memphis, Kansas meet tonight for NCAA title 04/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 5:39pm]

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