Shabazz Napier snagged his second national title ring on Monday night as the UConn Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 at Cowboy Stadium. Napier won his first ring as a freshman in 2011 with a little help from Junior Kemba Walker, and on this night it was his turn to take the reigns as he had 22 points to lead all scorers in the title game. Coach Kevin Ollie also made himself a household name in college basketball as more than just a player by taking the Huskies to the national championship in just his first year at the helm. Ollie went 6-0 in the tournament after leading his team to a 32-8 record in the regular season.
Connecticut has had the reputation as being a basketball school for some time under the watchful eye of Jim Calhoun, however after Calhoun had to step aside due to medical issues, Ollie picked up right where he left off by winning the title in his first season. Shabazz Napier was the star of the team all year; in the tournament he continued to shine and was named the tournament’s MVP. Napier did have some help as he and Ryan Boatright formed a dynamic backcourt that combined for 36 of UConn’s 60 points in the final.
On the losing side, the Wildcats of Kentucky came up short in their bid to become the youngest team ever to win a national championship. James Young of the Wildcats had 20 points in the game, but it was lack-of-depth scoring and possession miscues down the stretch that led to Kentucky’s demise. Star Freshman Julius Randle didn’t have a good night as he only dropped 10 points while grabbing just 6 rebounds. The advantage was on the glass for the Wildcats but they didn’t do enough defensively or on the boards to win.
John Calipari is now rumored to be moving on to coach the Los Angeles Lakers next year, which could mean a steady decline for the Kentucky program. Much like Alabama in football, Kentucky is seen as the flagship program in college basketball and have routinely had players go number one overall under Calipari’s tenure. Since 2009 when Calipari stepped on campus, Kentucky has seen two players go first overall – John Wall and Anthony Davis.
In 2012 Kentucky saw four players go in the first round of the draft, and the top two picks were from Lexington. This year could be the third as Julius Randle seems to have done everything to help his stock by making this deep run in the tournament as an eighth-seed. If Calipari is to coach the Lakers next year as reported, it would be surprising if he didn’t take one of his own players with the expected top-5 pick that Los Angeles will have after their dreadful season.
UConn can pull off the dual National Titles like they did in 2011 if the undefeated women’s team can defeat the similarly undefeated Notre Dame Irish in tomorrow night’s women’s title game in Nashville.