Raise your hand if you saw this coming…No hands?!?! That sounds about right.
Yesterday, the UConn Huskies upset the 2014 NCAA Tournament favorite Michigan State Spartans 60-54 at Madison Sqaure Garden to earn a trip to the Final Four. The Huskies were not expected to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, let alone this far, but the play of senior Shabazz Napier has been Kemba Walker-esque. Coach Kevin Ollie is channeling his inner Jim Calhoun, something that is noticeable during postgame interviews. He has the same brash, no nonsense perspective that made Calhoun famous during his tenure at UConn.
Yesterday, the Spartan offense looked flustered. If they weren’t getting their transition three pointers, or secondary break buckets, Michigan State was sputtering like Big Ten offenses tend to do. Adreian Payne took 14 shots, 10 of which were from beyond the arc. It isn’t like he had to deal with Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon from Houston 25 years ago. Payne wasn’t around the rim enough, and it is something that he will get criticism for after this game. Gary Harris was the saving grace for the Spartans, hitting some big shots late, including back-to-back treys when his team was trailing by 10. There is plenty to look at from Michigan State’s perspective, but let’s focus on the Huskies.
Napier did what he had to do yesterday. Whether he was driving to the hoop, nailing the midrange jumper, or hitting the three, Napier got it done in all phases of the game. He finished the game with 25 points, while Jeremy Boatright and Thursday night’s star DeAndre Daniels both scored 11 and 12 respectively. The pick and roll game for UConn was vital to their success. Michigan State’s bigs had trouble handling the guards off any hedges and switches. The Huskies have been doing this all season long, making it a bit surprising to see the Spartans struggle so much at times.
UConn goes to Arlington, Texas for their first Final Four appearance since 2011, when they won the whole thing! They have a tough matchup with the Florida Gators, but this time of year there is no reason to count out these feisty Huskies.