Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Shabazz Napier Leads Connecticut to 2nd NCAA Title in Four Years, Drops Kentucky, 60-54

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, April 7, 2014

Shabazz Napier scored a game-high 22 points and was named tournament Most Outstanding Player, leading the Connecticut Huskies to the Men's Basketball Championship with a 60-54 victory over the youthful Kentucky Wildcats.

Kentucky, down as many as 15 points in the first half, closed the gap to within one, but never led in the game.

Napier was 8-for-16 overall, hitting four of six from three-point land and 2-for-2 from the stripe. He added three rebounds and three steals, dominating the Kentucky backcourt of freshmen guards, Aaron and Andrew Harrison who were a combined 6-for-16 and committed seven turnovers.

The real star of the game, however, was the rim, whenever Kentucky was shooting free throws, because that was the decisive statistic of the game. While the Huskies were 10-for-10 at the foul line, the Wildcats were a woeful 13-for-24, a miserable 54%, many of their misses coming in key situations.

Thus, the national championship belongs to Connecticut for the second time in four years. Napier and fellow senior, Niels Giffey, were a part of both championship teams.

The tournament is over and so its this blog, ending seven years of collage hoops coverage. It's on to other pursuits for me. I'll be the guy in the bleachers with a cold beer and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap.

-- Fearless Rick

Monday, March 31, 2014

Shabazz Napier Leads Huskies to Final Four; Kentucky Also Advances

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 30, 2014

As he's been doing for the better part of the season, Shabazz Napier put the UConn Huskies on his back and mushed his team to another important victory, this one over the Michigan State Spartans for a trip to the Final Four in Dallas with a 60-54 victory.

With a game-high 25 points, Napier scored the key buckets and made big plays in the final minutes to lead his squad to their biggest win of the year and a rematch with the Florida Gators in a national semi-final on Saturday.

Napier was just 6-for-14 from the field, but that included a 4-for-9 mark from three point range and perfection at the foul line where he made all nine of his free throws. The senior point guard also grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists.

Up 51-49 with under two minutes to play, Napier put the Huskies - the 11 seed in the East region - up by four with a short jumper and, after Michigan State's Adreian Payne scored a pair of free throws, Napier was fouled attempting a three-pointer with 30 seconds to go and calmly stepped to the line and sank all three foul shots for a five point UConn lead.

Michigan State missed a three-point attempt and Napier fed Phillip Nolan for a dunk with 15 seconds left which sealed the victory.

The Huskies will face Florida on Saturday, meeting the Gators for the first time since December 2 when they beat the Gators, 65-64. Since then, Florida has run off 30 straight wins and enter the Final Four as the #1 seed from the South region.

The last spot in the Final Four was completed in rousing fashion late Saturday afternoon as Kentucky upset Michigan in the Midwest region final, 75-72. Kentucky, the #8 seed in the region got a clutch performance from Aaron Harrison, who hit four three-pointers in the final eight minutes, the last one coming with just three seconds in the game, breaking a 72-all tie and sending the Wildcats to a Final Four meeting with Wisconsin.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Frank Kaminsky Powers Wisconsin Past Arizona into Final Four; Florida Forward over Dayton

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 29, 2014

In the end, basketball is a team sport, but it really helps your chances of winning when you have a seven-footer who can score nearly half of your team's points in big games.

That's the nature of Wisconsin and its star center, Frank Kaminsky, who scored 28 points for the Badgers in their 64-63 OT win over Arizona in the West regional final.

The junior from Lisle, Illinois with the smooth touch outside and deft moves inside, hit 11 of 20 shots from the field, including three of five from three-point range and three of four from the foul line, leading the Badgers into the Final Four. In 37 minutes of playing time, Kaminsky also collected 11 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive boards, key to keeping the ball alive for the Wisconsin offense and getting more than their fair share of second chance points.

Due to the ruggedly defensive nature of the game, Wisconsin shot just 39.3%; Arizona was only marginally better, at 39.8%.

The Badgers head to Dallas to meet up with the winner of Sunday's Kentucky-Michigan Midwest final in one of the two semi-final games.

The Florida Gators, #1 overall seed in the tournament, ground out a 62-52 victory over the Dayton Flyers, the #11 seed out of the South region. They reach the Final Four and look forward to playing the winner of Sunday's East region final between Michigan State and Connecticut.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

DeAndre Daniels' 27 Points Leads Connecticut past Iowa State, 81-76; Michigan, Kentucky, Michigan State Advance

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 28, 2014

Coming into the tournament, everyone knew that the Connecticut Huskies were a talented group, but they we're very deep, and few thought they'd advance far, but, with an 81-76 victory over Iowa State in the East region semi-final, they're one step away from the Final Four.

The Huskies, having won any number of games and Big East championships at Madison Square Garden, might have felt right at home in the Big Apple, but junior DeAndre Daniels, who hails from Los Angeles and led all scorers with 27 points, it was a special night.

Daniels blew away the Cyclones by hitting 10 of 15 shots from the field, including a pair of three pointers and snatched 10 rebounds to lead the Huskies into the next round.

The Huskies (29-8), the seven seed in the region, meet up with Michigan State (29-8) in the East regional final on Sunday, after the Spartans took out Virginia, 61-59.

Over in the Midwest region, 8th-seeded Kentucky took out defending national champion Louisville, 74-69, the #4 seed, and #2 Michigan scraped by #11 Tennessee, 73-71.

The Wildcats and Wolverines will go at it Sunday, the winner advancing to the Final Four.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Michael Frazier II Leads Florida to 29th Straight Victory, Elite Eight; Dayton, Arizona, Wisconsin Advance

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 27, 2014

Awarded the top seeding in the tournament, the Florda Gators proved their value, disassembling UCLA, 79-68, to advance to the South regional final where they will face the upstart, 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers on Saturday.

Florida established an early lead against the Bruins, led 36-30 at the half and were never headed, cruising to their 29th straight victory, the longest winning streak in the country.

Down 11-8 just six minutes into the game, Florida hit four straight three-pointers - three of them by Michael Frazier II - led 20-16 just 2 1/2 minutes later and held that lead for the remainder of the contest.

Florida's lead would eventually swell to as many as 11 on a few occasions and the Bruins cut it to one point midway through the second half, but the Gators pulled away once again. UCLA could only draw within seven points in the final six minutes as Florida players executed their offense and made free throws down the stretch.

Frazier finished the scoring on a breakaway dunk and was 5-for-8 from beyond the arc, finishing with a game-high 19 points, along with six rebounds and three assists.

On the opposite side of the South bracket, Dayton continued its successful run through the post-season with an 82-72 win over Stanford, the #10 seed in the region.

The West regional final was set for Saturday as #2 Wisconsin hammered Baylor, 69-52, and top seed Arizona handled San Diego State, 70-64.

Friday night's match-ups include Iowa State vs. Connecticut and Virginia vs. Michigan State in the East. The Midwest games are Tennessee vs. Michigan, followed by the blockbuster Louisville vs. Kentucky meeting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Iowa State Outlasts North Carolina, 85-83, Advances to Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 23, 2014

Even with the loss of a key player - Georges Niang - DeAndre Kane wasn't going to let his teammates and Iowa State fans down.

Kane drove to the bucket and powered in the last two of his game-high 24 points with 1.6 seconds left to play, giving Iowa State an 85-83 victory over North Carolina and a trip to the Sweet 16, where they will meet Connecticut in an East regional semi-final on Friday, March 28.

The Cyclones lost Niang for the remainder of the season in their 93-75 win over NC Central as he suffered a fractured foot, but got big efforts from Naz Long, Monte Morris and Dustin Hogue against the Tar Heels.

Kane's 24 points came off 9-for-18 shooting and a 5-for-7 effort from the foul line. He also had 10 rebounds and seven assists, though his bucket near the end of the game was all that really mattered as the Cyclones overcame an eight-point deficit and outscored the Tar Heels 17-7 down the stretch.

Most of Sunday's slate of eight games went according to plan, with lower-numbered seeds knocking off the higher ones, except in the South region, where #10 Stanford knocked off #2 Kansas, 60-57, and in the Midwest, where #8 Kentucky upset #1 seed and previously unbeaten Wichita State, 78-76.

Tennessee's 83-63 win over Mercer made it a trio for the SEC in the Sweet 16, joining Kentucky and Florida, matching the number in the round by the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin) and the PAC-12, which has advanced Stanford, UCLA and Arizona.

Baylor and Iowa State are the remaining teams from the Big 12 to advance, and two come out of the American Athletic - Louisville and UConn. Virginia is the only remaining ACC team left in the tournament. The Cavaliers smashed Memphis, 78-60, to advance.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Xavier Thames Nets 30 for San Diego State: Syracuse Out; Wisconsin, Michigan, Michagan St. Lead Big Ten to Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Aztecs of San Diego State advanced to the Sweet 16 with a thundering victory over North Dakota State, 63-44.

Xavier Thames led the scoring parade with 30 points on 9-for-19 shooting with four threes.

The Aztecs, #4 seed in the West region will match up with the winner of the Sunday's Gonzaga-Arizona meeting.

Elsewhere, Syracuse, the #3 seed in the South, was upended by #11 Dayton, 55-53; in the Midwest region, #2 Michigan downed #7 Texas, 79-65, making them the third Big Ten team in the Sweet 16, joining Michigan State and Wisconsin.