He reached the mountaintop his freshman season by combining with Kemba Walker to form one of the best backcourts ever and win the NCAA title after a 9-9 Big East season. Kemba left for the pros. Then his two big men left – Andre Drummond for the pros and Alex Oriakhi to Missouri. They told him UConn was banned from the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament – so Shabazz Napier won his title tonight.
For one last time Napier diced up the 2-3 zone to beat the Big East first place team, Syracuse, 66-58 in the final conference match-up between the two teams.
Napier has been one of the top few players in the country in steals and assists the past two years, but this year he has added 17.1 points a game to rank as the fourth best player in the game at www.valueaddbasketball.com.
Wednesday he reverted to distributor, helping encourage freshman Omar Calhoun, who hit three 3-pointers in the second half run to finish with 15 points, and backcourt teammate Ryan Boatright score 17.
The win knocked Syracuse into a three-way tie for first in the Big East with Georgetown and Marquette, while UConn. It moved the Huskies into a 6th place tie with Louisville.
The win was nothing compared to Napier’s freshman team that went 9-9 to finish 10th in the Big East, but instead of settling for the NIT, won five games in five days – including a six overtime game against Syracuse – to win the Big East title and then swept through six more games in the NCAA tournament to be national champions.
But with all that stripped away, and every Big East foe Napier came to play against expect Cincinnati and South Florida announcing they would leave the Big East, tonight was UConn’s championship.
The NCAA would have allowed Napier to leave and play immediately for another team this year due to the probation, and offer Oriakhi took. But today Napier can celebrate UConn’s in-season championship against their old Big East foes, and Napier should get serious consideration for All-American, the one thing for which probation does not have a ban.