Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What I learned from Kansas' run

There's an amazing similarity to poker and the NCAA tournament. Trust me. I was thinking about these things to prevent me from going into cardiac arrest while my Jayhawks pulled it off.

Here are some lessons that many of you know in poker and how Kansas pulled off its run:

1. You have to get lucky - Kansas' collapse against UNC, after holding a 28-point lead in the first half, was almost complete when Danny Green's three pointer with seven minutes to go stopped halfway down the basket, shook, rattled-and-rolled up and out. If he makes that shot, UNC is within two, their fans are going nuts, and there's a good chance they overwhelm us and we lose. Instead, we rebounded, Sasha Kahn hit an alley-oop dunk, we found new life and blew UNC away.

2. A win and a loss in a tournament or session usually comes down to one play - In our epic battle against Cinderella Davidson, their final shot fading away bounced off the backboard, and we won. In our game against Memphis, Chalmers' three-point shot, fading away, found the bottom of the net, we tied the game and won in overtime.
Chalmer's had a much better shot, but if either of those plays go any differently, I"m saying "Wait Until Next Year" and in the case of Davidson, it's possible Bill Self is wearing OSU colors.

3. You have to survive suckouts to keep playing and not let them rattle you - As the shot clock expired with only a few minutes left in the game, Derrick Rose hits a hail-mary, desperation shot that banked off the backboard. It was pure luck. And yet the shot was later, correctly, changed to a two, and a few minutes later we began to come back. The shot could have killed us. It didn't.
Last night I suffered three brutal suckouts in the Mookie, and yet I took fifth. You have to take the suckouts and move on.

4. Be aggressive, be be aggressive - Kansas was a remarkable team when we were confident and aggressive - see the first half of the UNC game for proof. Always play aggressively and with confidence.

5. Don't play scared - Conversely, Kansas barely beat Davidson because we were tentative, scared, really, and we almost blew the 28-point lead against UNC for the same reason. The Davidson game was almost painful to watch because that was not Kansas out there. Don't ever play scared.

6. Remain cool and collected, no matter what the situation - This may surprise people, but I wasn't surprised when Chalmers hit that shot to send the game into overtime. I screamed my voice off, but I wasn't surprised. He's done that throughout his career at Kansas. He's the coolest customer on the court. You should be the same way at the poker table, even if you're heads up for a nice score.

7. Tough times are good for you - Davidson's game was one of the most gut-wretching I've ever watched, even more than the title game. Texas also gave us a game for the ages in the Big 12 title game. Those games, that adversity, were good for us. I said to my friend before the game, "If we keep it close, Memphis will crack at the end." That team hadn't faced any adversity in the tournament or, really, the whole year. Sure enough, Memphis cracked.

8. A leak is a leak, no matter how you think it's not - Kansas' problems with turnovers and its inconsistency in hitting three-pointers almost cost us the game against Memphis. Memphis denied all year that its free throws were a problem, even when they clearly were, and they cost them the game.

9. Sometimes a player just gets hot, but if you ride it out, you can still win - Who doesn't hate it when a true donkey keeps hitting his cards over and over? Davidson's Curry, the player of the tournament, went on a tear during a stretch in the first half, and that was expected. Memphis' Rose went on a tear in the second half, and that was expected. Yet Curry missed key shots down the stretch, and Rose missed that crucial free throw at the end of the game, allowing us to tie the game with a three-pointer. I've never seen those get-lucky donkeys leave with their huge stack. Eventually everyone cools off.

10. Captialize on your opponents' mistakes - What was lost in the "Memphis choked" comments was the fact that Kansas hit a two, stole the ball on the inbounds and hit a three, made every single free throw and then buried a three-pointer basically at the buzzer to tie the game. Yes, Memphis made mistakes, but Kansas took advantage of them.

11. Have fun - We were at our best when we were having fun. It's a game, after all, and it's supposed to be fun. Poker is much more fun when you're having fun.


lightning36 said...

Hey Peaker - Congrats on the national championship!

Check out my blog story on Bill Self. You might find it interesting.

BWoP said...

Great analogies Peaker.

Nice to see you at the tables last night.

Sorry about my 9-T suckout . . .

But your Jayhawks won it this year, and my Tarheels did not.

kurokitty said...

CK hits the three!