SAN ANTONIO — David Robinson was underneath the Alamodome stands between games of Saturday night's national semifinals. "What did you think of the guard?" he was asked.

Robinson gave an admiring shake of the head and said: "That Rose? He's great. For a freshman, he's unbelievable. He runs everything."

The former NBA legend as San Antonio's center paused, then added, "He's the kind of guard anyone would love to play with."

Can you hear that up in the Twin Cities, Kevin McHale? If the Timberwolves happen to get lucky in the lottery for the first time in franchise history, there's no decision to make.

The pick has to be Derrick Rose, the Memphis freshman who would turn Al Jefferson into an All-Star and the Wolves into a team worth watching again.

Rose was an explosive scoring threat and a magnificent playmaker in the Final Four opener, leading Memphis to a 78-63 victory over UCLA. It was game in which Rose and the Tigers always had control and slowly turned into a blowout.

And now Memphis gets Kansas -- not No. 1-ranked North Carolina -- in Monday night's title game. Cole Aldrich, the young giant from Bloomington, helped inspire a 25-2 Kansas run in the first half that the Jayhawks turned into a 28-point lead (40-12) with 7 1/2 minutes left in the half.

Kansas held off Carolina's second-half charge and then roared away for an 84-66 victory.

Saturday's task seemed immense for Kansas, with North Carolina and junior Tyler Hansbrough, the winner of a trophy case full of player of the year awards.

The final task will be more daunting: trying to stop Rose, the 6-3 point guard who should have been looked at a bit closer for some of those awards -- a Rupp, a Wooden, an Oscar Robertson, some dang plaque.

Rose finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a single turnover. Chris Douglas-Roberts, the junior wing, played off his point guard brilliantly and scored 28 points.

UCLA was appearing in its third consecutive Final Four. The Bruins have built their success under coach Ben Howland on tremendous defense. They keep opponents in front of them and disrupt the passing lanes.

UCLA could do neither of those things against Memphis. Rose, Douglas-Roberts and the other quick Tigers burst into the lane and carved up the Bruins with runners, floaters and interior passing. And when there was a loose ball or a midrange rebound, Memphis went charging away on fast breaks that UCLA could not stop.

"They hurt us in transition early in the game,'' Howland said. "Every time we would turn it over, they took advantage."

Russell Westbrook, UCLA's sophomore guard, was oddly eloquent when asked about Rose and Douglas-Roberts: "They just was real tough players."

Rose said Friday that he was pleased the NBA no longer allowed players to go directly from high school into the draft. He said he wasn't ready for the NBA.

He must have meant when he left high school in Chicago last year, because he's ready after a season (38-1 with one left) at Memphis.

"I'm just trying to be aggressive and lead my team as a point guard,"' Rose said. "It still didn't hit me yet that we won the game, but ..."

But? "Going into the game, we knew we were going to win," he said. "Why not say you're going to win? With the team we have ... ummm ... it's hard beating us."

Memphis coach John Calipari was asked his reaction when the freshman makes a sensational play.

"Every once in a while, I go, 'Oh, my god,' " he said. "And they usually come at inopportune times for the other team. How about that offensive rebound that he got back in the basket?''


Memphis was leading 54-47 and there was a TV timeout with 10:41 left. Howland fired up the troops and UCLA came out with maybe its best defensive stand of the night.

The Tigers missed a shot near the end of the shot clock, and Rose went up to get the rebound, then stayed airborne while he twisted to get the ball in the basket.

"That's the kind of stuff that kid does," Calipari said.

We need some of that stuff at Target Center. Please, lottery luck, take care of us just this once.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •