2. UCONN

I believe Shabazz Napier is Stephen Curry 2.0. 

If you need a reminder of just how good Curry was in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, enjoy this video montage

Napier is about the same size, 6’1” 180 lbs. Despite his size, Napier leads the UCONN Huskies in rebounding with six per game. He’s also the leader in scoring (17.5 ppg), assists (5 apg) and steals (1.8). He has tournament experience being a part of the 2011 National Championship team, even played 27 minutes in the title game.

He carries this 2014 team on his back and I believe he’s capable of taking them to the Elite Eight if the bracket sets up favorably.

Let’s start with the UCONN highlights:

Beat the Florida Gators – Napier hit the buzzer beater, scored 26 points.

Beat Memphis Three Times – Home, away, conference tournament.

Beat Cincinnati Two out of Three – Cincinnati is the most physical defensive team in the country. Connecticut didn’t thrive offensively against the Bearcats, averaging just 55.6 in those three games, but they did weather the storm and pull out two victories. 

The Cincinnati wins proved that UCONN will not be out-muscled. The Memphis wins showed they could matchup with a very athletic squad. The Florida win showed they can beat the very best.

So what’s wrong with the Huskies?

March 8th. Senior day at Louisville. UCONN went in and got demolished 81-48. Senior days are difficult, games can get out of hand fast, but still it’s hard for me to take a team all the way to the Final Four when they have a 33 point loss in March. 

That’s why Saturday’s AAC Championship game against Louisville was a big deal. Could they beat a team that is playing at a National Title level? Could Kevin Ollie make the right coaching adjustments to fix the 33 point defeat? Would Napier out-duel Russ Smith? 

Negative. They were outmatched again. Not 30 point outmatched, but Louisville led by around 20 for most of the game. That makes three losses on the season to Louisville. Two losses on the year to SMU. I mean if you throw out the Rick Pitino and Larry Brown coached opponents then UCONN is an impressive 26-3… 

So, let’s get this straight, they can’t beat Louisville, but they’ve got this Shabazz guy who’s supposed to be Steph Curry 2.0. Who else is on this team?

DeAndre Daniels is a versatile 6’9” forward who can play down in the post or out on the perimeter depending on the matchup. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds against Louisville

Ryan Boatright is a less refined version of Napier. Still really quick and can handle point guard responsibilities. 

Backup center Amida Brimah is a raw 7-footer who made big strides in the conference tournament. I like when teams have a guy like this who starts figuring things out right before the tournament. Adds a weapon that other teams are not preparing for. Brimah is a great shot blocker and is quickly improving his game on offense.

Verdict

Should be a lock to the Sweet 16. I’m not yet ready to commit to the Elite Eight and unfortunately the Louisville loss on Saturday killed any Final Four thoughts. 

 

 

 

 

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