Moments you might have missed from Brady Manek, others on championship Monday
The Harrah native left it all on the court as North Carolina couldn't quite hold Kansas back at the Superdome
Though I have an aversion to the “takeaway” column — it seems like a cop out, right, like can’t you carry one coherent thought through the whole thing? — but I’m overcoming it, for there are takeaways to get to, and I promise they’ll be entertaining and make more than one of them about former Sooner Brady Manek.
Monday, Kansas came from down 15 points at the half to claim its fourth national championship, its second under coach Bill Self and its first since 2008, topping North Carolina 72-69 Monday night in New Orleans.
Played inside the cavernous Superdome, it was a great game between two historically great programs, each coached by the successor to the same coach at both schools — Self replacing Roy Williams at Kansas in 2003 and Hubert Davis replacing Williams at Carolina before this season — each with a pedigree that makes you remember when college basketball ruled, when we knew the teams because the players stuck around, when we preferred the college game because the NBA coming to Oklahoma was too impossible to comprehend.
That out of the way, here’s a few things you might have missed.
• 1. Offering less-than-great analysis, sometimes bigger truths are spouted and Kenny Smith, doing the halftime thing with Clark Kellogg, Ernie Johnson and Charles Barkley had such a moment on TBS.
I think he was trying to make a point about the Tar Heels’ aggressiveness when he said something Sooner coach Porter Moser would be wise to remember.
“There’s a difference between having scorers and the freedom to score,” he said, “and I think that’s the difference,” adding that he thought Carolina was happy to take the first good shot it found, while Kansas was too picky and not scoring.
It’s questionable analysis because the Tar Heels were not shooting well. Instead, they led 40-25 because they finished the first half with 18 second-chance points. Had the Jayhawks cleaned up the defensive glass, maybe they’d have led by 15 at the half.
But as a metaphysical basketball point, Smith was right. You’ve got to play with confidence, without fear and make it happen, and all walking the ball up the court’s good for is burning a third of the shot clock up before getting into your offense, and just maybe, next year, Moser’s Sooners might take that point to heart.
• 2. Manek, who played four years at Oklahoma under Lon Kruger, finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, making 4 of 8 shots and 3 of 6 from 3-point land. He even blocked four shots. He was tagged with a turnover in the final seconds, but he only had two of Carolina’s 13 and the last one was forgivable, frantically trying to dish it to a beyond-the-arc teammate as Carolina frantically tried to tie the game.
A very long way from Harrah, he played well, left it on the court, all that, and, again, it’s just amazing what he was able to do in the program for which he played one season against what he was able to do in the program for which he played four.
For a sixth consecutive NCAA tournament game, he made at least three 3-pointers, making 47.8 percent (22 of 46) of his long-distance attempts over the tourney.
In four seasons at OU, the most consecutive games in which he hit at least three 3-pointers was three, his freshman season, when he hit 3 of 8 against Southern Cal, 5 of 13 at Wichita State and 4 of 6 against Northwestern State between Dec. 8 and Dec. 19, 2017.
Those 13 rebounds?
He matched them once at OU, against TCU his freshman year, and exceeded them once, grabbing 15 against Iowa State last season. At Carolina, his previous high was 11, against Appalachian State, at Duke to close the regular season and against Marquette, the Tar Heels’ second victory of the tournament.
The four blocks?
A career high.
Hard to play harder and tougher than that.
• 3. While it looked like Carolina would win, it occurred to me Hubert Davis would become … well, at least the third Black head coach to lead his team to the national championship, because while I readily remembered John Thompson at Georgetown and Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, it escaped me that Kentucky, coached by Tubby Smith, won it all in 1998, as did UConn, in 2014, coached by Kevin Ollie.
The good news, perhaps, is the whole nation appeared hyper-aware of Thompson and Richardson making history in 1984 and 1994. Since, its happening strikes as less groundbreaking and more normal, which feels like progress.
• 4. Jim Nance did nothing during the broadcast, specifically, that makes me wish they’d remove him from the Final Four, which he’s been calling since 1991, and which I wish they’d do.
I’m just not a fan, mostly, because he’s such a creature of Augusta National Golf Club.
Calling the Masters, he never sounds like the Final Four guy at Augusta or the football guy at Augusta.
Instead, at the Final Four, he sounds like the Masters guy doing basketball and alongside Tony Romo, he sounds like the Masters guy calling football.
Anyway, exiting the broadcast, it was clear he wanted to say something memorable, but it was just as clear he was coming up with it on the fly and maybe wasn’t so sure about it.
“We just saw a second half [small pause] Jayhawk [smaller pause] juggernaut,” he said, before taking an even longer pause and adding, stiffly, “with a comeback for the ages.”
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• 5. Though Manek didn’t have as big a scoring game as he’d enjoyed through most of the tournament, netting just four points in the second half after knocking down all of his 3s in the first, the first two of those second-half four, at the free-throw line, tied it with 3:06 remaining and his lone second-half field goal but Carolina back on top 69-68 with 1:42 remaining. If only they’d not been Carolina’s last two points.
He also had a very Oklahoma quote during Friday’s press conference, the day before Carolina played Duke in the national semifinal.
Manek was asked about playing in a dome, if all that space was likely to mess with his shooting?
“If you’ve never shot outside on the driveway with the wind blowing and you miss it and it rolls down the street, you haven’t really shot a basketball,” he said. “So I don’t think it will be too big of a problem.”