Runner up Memphis Tigers lost last night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game to Kansas, 75-68 in overtime.
Because of a single free throw.
All season long, Memphis head coach John Calipari has been making excuses about his team’s poor free throw shooting. All season long, Calipari appeared to discount, if not blow off, the importance of the fundamental flaw in the Tigers’ basketball weaponry, saying things like “We find other ways to win” and “We would always come through when the stakes were highest.”
But they didn’t.
Memphis’ performance in shooting free throws – what anyone would consider a fundamental basketball achievement of a good team, much less a championship team, ranked them 339th out of 341 NCAA teams by making only 59% of their free throws.
In that category they aren’t second in the nation. They are SECOND TO LAST in the nation.
And that’s why Kansas coach Bill Self had them foul the crud out of Memphis in the final two minutes – because he knew that their fundamental weakness was the ability to make free throws. Any coach in the same position would have done what Self did. Force the opponent to their weakest position.
After the loss in the championship final, Memphis’ star freshman guard Derrick Rose echoed his coach’s excuse, saying that if they had done other things prior to the end of the game, they would have won anyhow. Yet Rose’s team had done those things already – they had a 9 point lead with 2 minutes remaining.
Noting of course, that Rose’s missed free throw at the end of the game allowed Kansas’ Mario Chalmers to tie the game with 2 seconds left on a dramatic 3-pointer. Rose’s spectacular 2nd half performance is what had them up by 9 in the second half, but he clearly is drinking the coach’s Kool-Aid about the theory that free throw shooting isn’t important to them. He still doesn’t get it.
Free throws are one of those “other things” that champions do to win. Part of being in the top 2% of any group is doing the things that no one else does.
“It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow, that we had it in our grasp,” Calipari said after the game.
What would hit your business like a ton of bricks?
What fundamentals do you discount? Where does your strongest competitor lack excellence in fundamentals? What fundamental skill can you pay more attention to and raise the performance of yourself and your company?