Category Archives: NCAA Basketball

Connecticut Defeats Kentucky Capping Off A Surprising National Championship Run, Fueled By Senior Shabazz Napier

UCONN’s backcourt led by senior point guard Shabazz Napier too much for Kentucky, as Huskies win 4th title in past 15 years:

NCAA Men's Final Four - Championship

Via CBS Sports:

ARLINGTON, Texas — Coaches and players left them. Others told them to go away.

The guys who stuck around at Connecticut ended up with the last laugh and a pretty good prize to go with it: The national title.

Shabazz Napier turned in another all-court masterpiece Monday night to lift the Huskies to a 60-54 victory against Kentucky’s freshmen and bring home a championship hardly anyone saw coming.

“You’re looking at the hungry Huskies,” Napier told the crowd and TV audience as confetti rained down. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when you banned us.”

The senior guard had 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, and his partner in defensive lock-down, Ryan Boatright, finished with 14 points.

The victory comes only a short year after the Huskies were barred from March Madness because of grades problems. That stoked a fire no one could put out in 2014.

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Florida, Kentucky, Connecticut and Wisconsin Advance To The Final 4

NCAA March Madness: Looking at key story lines for each of the remaining 4 teams heading to Texas for the Final 4:

Via SI: Making the Final Four means that Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and Wisconsin have eradicated most of the lingering doubts about them.

Still, there are a few questions worth asking about each of the participants at AT&T Stadium this weekend. So we’re asking them, four apiece for each Final Four contender, who are presented here in chronological order.

Connecticut Huskies

1. Can Shabazz Napier keep doing this?

Given that the senior guard led his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals during the regular season and has then averaged 23.3 points per game during the NCAA tournament to date, the answer appears to be a resounding yes. Napier has faced stiff backcourt battles for three straight games, against Villanova, Iowa State and Michigan State, and been the best player on the court every time. Read the rest of this entry

Kansas Freshman Joel Embiid Outshining Top NBA Prospect; Teammate Andrew Wiggins

CBS Sports Garry Parrish on the impact of Kansas freshman Joel Embiid who is emerging as the top 2014 NBA draft prospect:  

LAWRENCE, Kan. — It was clear in the preseason, if you spoke with anybody on the Kansas staff, that Bill Self and his assistants believed they had something special in Joel Embiid.

The freshman big was getting a fraction of the attention reserved for Andrew Wiggins.

But his so-called ceiling, they quietly insisted, was just as high.

Perhaps even higher.

I realized this for the first time in late September when I attended a KU practice while in town. I returned home still intrigued by Wiggins, of course, for all of the obvious reasons. But the lasting image from that trip was one of Embiid — alone on the court, perfecting post moves, smiling when his coaches instructed him to show me his Dream Shake.

Everything Embiid did seemed so natural.

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Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker All Shine On Big Chicago Stage

USA Today’s Sam Amick on the buzz surrounding the elite level future NBA talent at the Champions Classic in Chicago:

The traffic between Philadelphia and nearby Trenton, N.J., was heavier than normal on Feb. 10, 2002, with a parade of NBA scouts, coaches, and executives clogging I-95 because they all had somewhere special to be.

Seventeen-year-old LeBron James of St. Vincent-St. Mary was facing off against fellow high school phenom Carmelo Anthony of Oak Hill Academy, and the hordes of talent evaluators who were already in town for the All-Star game gleefully made the 35-mile trek to see these young stars who already seemed destined for greatness. It was, as one executive who was on hand that day described it, “a day where you felt the earth move.”

It moved again on Tuesday night, when three of the top contenders for No. 1 pick in the celebrated 2014 NBA draft took part in the Champions Classic in Chicago that likely will be remembered in the same vein as the James-Anthony faceoff by the estimated 80 NBA types who were on hand. Power forward Julius Randle of No. 1 Kentucky set the bar extremely high in the opener (27 points and 13 rebounds), showcasing his power style in a 78-74 loss to No. 2 Michigan State.

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Michigan, Syracuse, Louisville and Wichita State Off To Atlanta For Final 4

Myron Medcalf of ESPN looks at the interesting story lines and key matchups as the Final 4 is set:

The survivors, those who’ve persisted toward Atlanta for the Final Four and a shot at the national title, are diverse.

There’s the Big Ten team that’s not the Big Ten team many expected to see there. And the Kansas school that believes in the code of the WuShock, not the Jayhawk.

The Big East’s best team is still thriving. But Louisville’s conference colleague, Syracuse, is coming, too. They’re all different. Their styles, their systems, their paths.

But there’s a similarity that can’t be overlooked as we prepare for the final chapter of the 2012-13 season. They’re all led by elite quarterbacks (point guards).

Trey Burke, Malcolm Armstead, Michael Carter-Williams and Peyton Siva are savvy leaders who’ve demonstrated their value throughout the NCAA tournament.

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NCAA Tourney Continues; Sweet 16

Yahoo Sports looks at the remaining Sweet 16 teams and their chances to win the NCAA Title:

The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament produced plenty of surprises, but it did not change the favorite to capture the national title. That remains No. 1 overall seed Louisville, which looked as dominant as anyone advancing to the Sweet 16.

With the regional semifinals set to tip off Thursday evening, here’s ranking of the 16 teams still alive from most likely to least likely to win a championship. To be clear, this is not merely a best-to-worst list – it also takes into account upcoming draw and where those games will be held.

1. Louisville
How they got here: Defeated North Carolina A&T and Colorado State
Up next: No. 12 Oregon
Outlook: Since a five-overtime loss to Notre Dame during Big East play, Louisville has reeled off 12 wins in a row, captured the Big East tournament title and throttled its first two NCAA tournament opponents by an average of nearly 30 points. The team that beats the Cardinals will have to be patient, careful with the ball and torrid from the field, which is bad news for an Oregon team that plays at a fast pace and turns the ball over a little too frequently.

2. Indiana
How they got here: Defeated James Madison and Temple
Up next: No. 4 Syracuse
Outlook: It took a key block, a shrewd coaching decision and a game-clinching 3-pointer for Indiana to survive Temple’s round of 32 upset bid, but the Hoosiers did what they needed to do, which was survive and advance. They have the firepower to solve Syracuse’s zone and to overcome Miami or Marquette in the regional finals, but more production from everyone besides Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller is essential.

3. Florida
How they got here: Defeated Northwestern State and Minnesota
Up next: No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
Outlook: Dominant as Florida has been in its first two games, questions remain how the Gators will fare down the stretch in a close game and whether they can hold onto a late lead in an Elite Eight game the way they’ve failed to do the past two years. Florida may have the size, length and athleticism to put Florida Gulf Coast away early, but whether it’s the Elite Eight or the Final Four, the Gators eventually will be tested in a close game.

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Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel Tears ACL; Likely Still Top 5 NBA Lottery Pick

SI’s Ben Golliver on Nerlens Noel’s NBA prospects after the Freshman star tears his ACL:

Kentucky announced Wednesday that center Nerlens Noel, regarded as one of the top prospects in the 2013 NBA draft, tore the ACL in his left knee during a Tuesday loss to Florida, an injury that will end his freshman season.

“Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback!,” Noel tweeted on Wednesday. “I love you all and can’t thank y’all enough for the prayers.”

There is never a good time and place for an ACL injury but this is about as bad as it gets. Noel was less than five months away from the 2013 draft, in which he has been regarded as a likely top-three pick, and perhaps the No. 1 overall selection. His injury generally carries a nine-to-12 month recovery, forcing him to choose between returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, joining the team midseason once he’s healthy, or taking his chances by declaring for the draft.

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Evaluating The NBA Draft Decisions Of 2012′s Underclassmen

CBS Sports examines the decisions to enter the NBA draft or remain in school by this year’s underclassmen:

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07:  Jeremy Lamb #3 of the Connecticut Huskies controls the ball against Darryl Bryant #25 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during their second round game of the 2012 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 7, 2012 in New York City.

“We now know, barring any late-month surprises, which underclassmen are staying and which are headed to the pros. Those decisions have been made.

But who was wise? And who was not? Which school benefitted? And which program got burned?

These are the questions worth addressing as we start to turn our attention to the NBA Draft and 2012-13 season. So my colleague Jeff Goodman and I try to address most of them, and here’s what we came up with.

Player sure to be a star

Anthony Davis (Kentucky) — He’s the clear-cut No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft and should be, barring a set of Greg Oden-like injuries, a franchise player and perennial All-Star. He can impact the game on both ends of the court, and it’s just a matter of time before he’s a dominant player in the NBA.

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Top H.S Hoop Recruits Shabazz Muhammad Heading To UCLA and Nerlens Noel Picks Kentucky

Sports Illustrated’s Rob Dauster on the college commitments of top prospects Muhammad and Noel:

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“Wednesday was so much more than just the first day of college basketball’s spring signing period. With the nation’s top two recruits — Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel — announcing where they intend to spend their likely one-and-done seasons, every 2012-13 projection hung in the balance. Muhammad surprised no one by committing to and signing with UCLA, while Noel kept Georgetown and Kentucky fans waiting before revealing a ‘UK’ symbol shaved into the back of his trademark flat-top.

Here are five quick thoughts on their commitments:

1. Is this recruiting class fool’s gold for Ben Howland? UCLA coach Ben Howland needed this recruiting class desperately. After spending the last four seasons proving nothing more than his inability to build on the success of three straight Final Four trips from 2006-08, Howland watched as his second NIT-bound campaign in the last three years was punctuated by a story from Sports Illustrated that highlighted everything negative happening in the program. The notion that drew the most criticism was the accusation that Howland allowed Reeves Nelson to deliberately injure fellow team members without repercussion.  As poorly as that reflects on the program, it looks even worse for Howland.

The fact that the ninth-year coach even managed to keep his job centered not only on his three consecutive Final Fours, but, perhaps more pressingly, on the idea that Howland could lure two of the top three national recruits in Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Read the rest of this entry