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Does KU have a chance?

The answer to the question posted in this blog headline is a resounding “no.” With another four-letter word in front of it, referring to a place none of us ever want to be.

As I was getting in the elevator at the hotel today to come over to the Superdome, ESPN analyst FranAny team that has Thomas Robinson - and Kansas has him - has a chance to win. At least that's what I think.Franschilla was riding, too. Fran and I are close and I, as you can tell, love to drop names.

Anyway, I’m one – one of the few – who believes Kansas has a chance in tonight’s national championship game against Kentucky. So I asked Franschilla if he was with me.

And he wasn’t. He obviously thinks this is Kentucky’s game and he’s not alone. Not only are most of the “experts” picking the Wildcats, but they’re picking them by a lot. And some are saying a KU win would be epic, like North Carolina State’s victory over the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston team in 1983 or Villanova’s upset of Georgetown two years later.

What?

I’m obviously missing something here, and it’s not respect for Kentucky. I do regard the Wildcats as a big-time team with unbelievable talent. I know six Kentucky players will be involved in the NBA draft in a couple of months and that a couple of them could be lottery picks.

Center Anthony Davis is listed at 6-foot-10 but there has to be a typo. I’m almost sure he’s 7-10. Davis is a game changer.

But Kansas isn’t coming into this game with chopped liver. Or liver and onions, that I know of.

KU is good. And it’s a veteran team with a central piece, 6-10 junior Thomas Robinson, who is as focused as any player in the tournament.

Robinson and guards Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson could actually win their one-on-one matchups against Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb. It’s not out of the realm.

But how will KU 7-footer Jeff Withey hold up against Davis? Three months ago, I would have said Davis would steamroll Withey into surrender. Now I think the KU junior might be able to hold his own. That’s not saying Withey wins the match-up or that Withey is a better player than Davis. He’s not. But he’s capable of at least competing with Davis, isn’t he?

The other problematic match-up for Kansas is Travis Releford vs. Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But am I completely loony in believing Releford is physical enough and smart enough to create some doubt in Kidd-Gilchrist, who is just a freshman after all. And Releford played better in his semifinal game against Ohio State than Gilchrist did in his against Louisville, when he had nine points and four rebounds.

Kentucky has a big edge off the bench with senior Darius Miller. Wait, Kentucky has a senior? Yes, and Miller is a good one who is capable of being the Wildcats’ best player in a given game.

But try as I might, I cannot see the huge Kentucky advantage in this game that everybody else – many of whose opinions I value – are seeing.

I know Kansas has struggled mightily to score in the NCAA Tournament; the Jayhawks just aren’t shooting well. And Kentucky doesn’t play defense like a bunch of freshmen and sophomores with one foot out the door for the NBA. The Wildcats are a fantastic defensive team with one of the best shot blockers in college basketball history in Davis.

But KU’s defense is special, too. And the Jayhawks are playing like a charmed team, able to overcome even themselves to win games.

Do I think Kansas can beat Kentucky? Yes I do. Do I think the Jayhawks will?

I could be really bold and pick KU. But I don’t think I can do that, even though I’m tempted. I will pick this to be a close game. And an epic game. It will be in doubt from start to finish before Kentucky eeks out a 70-68 win.

That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it. Have fun watching the game everyone.

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