What kid of tournament was this? Unpredictable and exciting from start to finish. Just look at the UConn Huskies.
Napier turned in one final masterpiece as a college player Monday night, lifting the Huskies to a 60-54 win over Kentucky and bringing home a championship hardly anyone not wearing a UConn uniform thought was possible.
Neither was around in last year’s tourney — Connecticut because of a tournament ban over academic issues; Kentucky because it didn’t make the field. And neither looked like title contenders at times this season.
Shabazz Napier can shoot, drive and dish, hit big shots, pick off passes, carry a team down the stretch of a game and a season. Sounds an awful lot like another recent UConn star: Kemba Walker.
The Huskies were punished for the mistakes made by players over the four previous years. While five players left the program, others remained loyal to UConn.
“We motivated ourself with the sanctions,” guard Shabazz Napier said. “We were motivated with people doubting us and it worked out well.”
Hall of Famers Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma have won 11 national championships between them, and Ollie counts both among his friends and close advisers.
Unlike the past few years, there will be no upstarts or Cinderella in the Final Four. These are the big boys all right, but each one has a big chip on their shoulders.
The last time Connecticut won college basketball’s national championship, the road to the title went through Madison Square Garden.
Wilt had some unbelievable games here. Ali and Frazier fought here. The players who will take the court at Madison Square Garden this weekend, though, don’t remember any of that. And yet they still regard the Garden as the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Friday night, Virginia meets Michigan State and Connecticut faces Iowa State in the East Regional semifinals.
The Huskies are back at MSG, where they won seven Big East tourney titles. But head coach Kevin Ollie warned that being the local favorite doesn’t guarantee anything.
College basketball’s elite rivalry will bring out the best in North Carolina for the first 20 minutes, but we can’t see Roy Williams’ team staying close with the Blue Devils for an entire game.
Friday night at Pauley Pavilion was one of the better moments we’ve seen in recent memory in Westwood as UCLA stormed back from a late nine-point deficit.
Shabazz Napier scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help Connecticut over Washington 61-53 on Saturday in the final nonconference game of the year for both teams.