UConn pulled away from Michigan State in the second half to emerge victorious and return to the Final Four for the fifth time in the last fifteen years on Sunday afternoon.
Breitbart Sports readers may have been the only ones who knew Shabazz Napier, not Doug McDermott, was the top-ranked Value Add player in the 2014 tournament. Shabazz Napier dominated in the obscurity of UConn’s probation last season, and most were stunned when Breitbart Sports named him the 2nd team All-American point guard in 2013. Sunday he left no doubt with a dominant 25 point performance to make UConn the first 7-seed in more than two decades to go to the Final Four.
The Breitbart Sports 1st Team All-American guard joins the Breitbart Sports 1st Team All-American center Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin, who pulled the other Elite 8 upset with a 28-point performance against Arizona Saturday, in the Final Four.
Napier dished out four assists and took 14 shots en route to those 25 points to stun Michigan State 60-54.
Napier teamed with back court mate Ryan Boatright to win the turnover battle 16 to 8 and rattle the Spartans team that many pundits had chosen to win the national title. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Napier had his typical six rebounds, the second best total on a UConn team that was under sized but only lost the rebound battle by two (32-30).
No other UConn player had even half the points of Napier. It was a three-man show on offense with Boatright adding 11 and DeAndre Daniels scoring 12. Napier spread the defense well beyond the arc, hitting five of nine three-pointers and drawing a crucial fifth foul on Keith Appling to get three more free throws (all of which he made en route to a 9-9 from the line). That foul sent Keith Appling to the bench with just two points.
Three UConn front line players produced little offense, but took away the expected inside dominance of the Spartans Adreian Payne, who went only one of four from inside the arc–settling for 10 three-point shots en route to a weak 13 point performance.
The Value Add rankings will be updated for tournament games. As of Selection Sunday, Doug McDermott was easily the top OFFENSIVE player in the country with an offensive Value Add of 8.77. This calculation means that once all of McDermott’s contributions are factored, he is adding almost nine points a game to Creighton’s score each game. (See Sports Illustrated article here for explanation)
That figure is much better than Napier’s very impressive 4.93 offensive rating. However, because Napier takes away so many points with his defense and plays the tougher position of guard, his overall Value Add improves to 7.98. McDermott’s defense gives back a little of the offense he creates, pulling him down to 7.87.
The Value Add rankings will be updated for tournament games, but in light of Napier’s dominance throughout the tournament and McDermott’s early exit after a tough game against Baylor, Napier is likely to widen the difference.
The only question in those ratings should be if Napier has done so much that he could catch Delon Wright, who had the top Value Add ranking (Napier was 2nd of all players) but had only one other teammate rated in the Top 700 Value Add players and did not make the tournament.