2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

NCAA tournament: Picking the perfect bracket

Published: March 20, 2014, 9:30 am, by Paul Klee

NCAA.Bracket

You ask the guy who won the bracket, right?

Nuggets forward and former NCAA champion Darrell Arthur sat down with me to fill out his bracket (above). Yes, he has the Buffs beating Pittsburgh. Yes, he advises to roll with the favorites in the Thursday-Friday games. Yes, he has Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State and Arizona in the Final Four.

Yes, he remembers every nanosecond of The Shot that carried Kansas over Memphis in the 2008 national championship game. These sort of things tend to stick with a man.

“We ran a play that we ran throughout the year,” Arthur said.

The play was set up before Derrick Rose went to the line for a pair of free throws. He missed the first and swished the second. (I always felt the whole Memphis-free-throws-thing was overblown; Rose’s first effort was halfway down and simply popcorned out.) So the Jayhawks ran a play called “Slice” — “If I remember right, that’s what it’s called,” Arthur said — and the rest is March Madness history.

Here’s how The Shot was aligned, according to a player who was on the court: 

“We were very familiar with it. I think we ran it twice against Texas that season,” Arthur said. “Sherron (Collins) has a dribble hand-off (to Mario Chalmers). He has options, too. I was setting a flash-screen for B-Rush. Darnell (Jackson) was setting a down-screen for Sherron.

“We ran that play and it worked. He did the same thing against Texas. We were down 20 points to Texas. It was kind of the same scenario. Memphis had us down, too. D-Rose contested the three, but Mario got it off and he made it.”

Chalmers’ game-tying three-pointer is remembered and earned him Most Outstanding Player honors in the Final Four. But Arthur arguably was the best Jayhawk in that game, going for 20 and 10 in the final.

Chances are, there will be a moment like that in this NCAA tournament. There usually is.

Along with his bracket picks, this is what I wanted learn: what’s a player feeling in the final moments of a Ziplock-tight NCAA tournament game, their season and a potential championship on the line?

“When we’re in that huddle (earlier), you know what was going through my head? We’ve got to make a play,” Arthur said. “We did all the things that led up to that point. That play doesn’t happen without all the practice and knowing what you’re supposed to do. We knew what we had to do.

“But at the end of the game — a game like that — you’ve got to be perfect. I remember what Coach (Bill Self) told us: Believe in yourself.”

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette