A GRIP ON SPORTS • Who is going to win tonight? And why is it Kansas?
• We have two reasons for picking the Jayhawks to win their third national title. And neither of them have anything to do with Roy Williams.
That’s one of the weird aspects of the 2022 NCAA Division I men’s national title game, to be contested tonight in New Orleans. Both teams have played in this championship before with Williams in charge – UNC posting a 3-1 record after he lost twice with the Jayhawks.
William is retired now, though he was watching from the stands as his hand-picked successor, Hubert Davis, eliminated Williams’ bête noire, Mike Krzyzewski, in one semifinal. Meanwhile, Bill Self and the Jayhawks rolled over short-handed Villanova in Saturday’s other semi.
And that brings us to the first of our two reasons.
North Carolina, while playing as well as anyone the past few weeks, may have played the emotional equivalent of a national title game already. And won.
The list of accomplishments reaches to the Superdome’s roof. Defeating the Tar Heels’ biggest rival. The chance to send Krzyzewski out with a defeat. The first time the two programs had met in an NCAA game. There was so much passion running through Saturday’s game, can there be any left for tonight?
Sure. But probably not enough. Not when the opponent, Kansas, has just as much if not more.
For the past couple years the NCAA’s enforcement arm, such as it is, has hovered the Lawrence campus like the sword of Damocles. At some point the process, which began in a showy New York press conference held by the FBI. The law enforcement arm of the federal government told the world players were being bought and sold, and pointed out a handful of schools enjoying the transactions’ rewards. One was Kansas.
The NCAA had to crack down. In Kansas’ case, the resulting preliminary findings accused Self of being responsible for a program accused of multiple Level 1 violations – the worst of the worse.
That was more than two years ago. The case is still winding through the NCAA’s new outside review process, from which there is no appeal.
But at Kansas, everyone figures the NCAA is out to get them. And they might be right.
Just picture this. NCAA president Mark Emmert standing in the Superdome, confetti falling, and handing the trophy to Self, a coach Emmert’s own people have accused of cheating. Even if the evidence seems to point that way, we’re sure these Kansas players don’t care. They probably sees tonight’s game as a chance to stick a needle in the principal’s eye, so to speak.
And we’re sure the Jayhawks will do just that.
• South Carolina has been atop the women’s polls pretty much all season. The past couple weeks the Gamecocks showed why. They were the best team in the nation.
That was proven emphatically in about 3 minutes in Sunday night’s title game against Connecticut. South Carolina just overpowered the Huskies on the glass, powering its way to an early double-digit lead and holding off every UConn charge thereafter.
With the 64-49 victory, South Carolina has two national titles under Dawn Staley and handed Geno Auriemma his first championship game loss.
WSU: The Cougar women’s team probably watched last night’s game and thought about their next goal. They want to win an NCAA tournament game. Colton Clark summarizes that objective in this story. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, Oregon will have a new offense this fall and it involves space and pace. Now, who will be the quarterback, that’s still to be determined. … Utah’s secondary players are healing up. … Arizona State has five quarterbacks vying to replace Jayden Daniels as the starter. … Washington State fans will understand why Arizona is giving Jayden de Laura freedom to operate. … In basketball news, Colorado has a longer recruiting list than coach Tad Boyle thought a week ago.
Gonzaga: The baseball team topped visiting Pepperdine 7-4 and won the weekend series.
Chiefs: It was a perfect weekend for Spokane. The Chiefs defeated host Vancouver again on Sunday, this one 4-1.
Mariners: Is this the year? The year the M’s break their playoff drought? … To do it, Julio Rodriguez may have to be as good in the regular season as he’s been this spring. But that’s asking a lot. He hit another home run Sunday as the M’s won once more.
• Tiger Woods is in Augusta. Will he play this weekend’s Masters? He’s not sure. He called himself day-to-day, which is fine in a team sport but sounds ominous in an individual one. We hope he plays. He’s good for the game. But we also don’t want to see him struggle to walk one of the hillier courses in the world. Stay tuned. Until later …