Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Mention of San Antonio triggers one of two powerful emotions for the typical Kansas basketball fan.
First is pride at memories of Mario Chalmers’ 3-point shot, delivered with just the right degree of extra loft to avoid the climbing fingers of Derrick Rose.
At other times, "San Antonio" grows sweat beads that betray an intense fear: Will Gregg Popovich, 69, coach of the San Antonio Spurs since 1996, retire any time soon? Will Spurs general manager R.C. Buford respond to that news by giving close friend Bill Self an offer he can’t refuse?
For the purposes of nurturing mental health, it’s better to focus on the nostalgia conjured by mention of the South Central Texas city, site of both the Battle of the Alamo and Memphis vs. Kansas.
San Antonio: Pride, fear and now hope.
The Final Four returns to the city named after St. Anthony of Padua for the first time since Kansas defeated Memphis, 75-68, in overtime, 10 March Madnesses ago.
Thanks to the River Walk, a web of walkways, shops, restaurants and bars on the banks of the San Antonio River, it’s the perfect city to hold a non-stop weekend bash in celebration of the culmination of another college basketball season.
Ten years ago, nearly everyone’s loyalty was on display with gear commemorating the event, but the petty bitterness that can accompany rivalries seemed to take the weekend off.
It not only was the perfect place for a Final Four, but in a very real sense the only perfect Final Four in that for the first-and-to-date-only time, all four No. 1 seeds advanced to center stage.
Certain moments burn on the brain permanently and don’t require researching. Many such moments occurred in 2008, my second Final Four and the first that I worked.
Mental snapshots, 10 years later: Rodrick Stewart fractures his kneecap at the open practice Friday. Kansas takes a 40-12 lead on North Carolina, thanks in part to freshman reserve Cole Aldrich shrinking Tyler Hansbrough. Roy Willams’ Tar Heels storm back to within 54-50 before losing, 84-66. Kansas scores 12 points in the final two minutes of regulation against Memphis, making every 3-pointer, 2-pointer, free throw. Sherron Collins steals the ball, gives it up, pops to the corner, buries a 3. Darrell Arthur’s stat line: 20 points, 10 rebounds. Kansas immediately takes control in overtime, confirming the feeling of most in the building that Mario’s Miracle already had sealed the deal at the end of regulation.
Kansas 75, Memphis 68.