For the second time in four years the University of Connecticut Huskies are national champions. In 2011, the Huskies rode their senior guard, Kemba Walker to the championship, this year his prodigy, Shabazz Napier, followed his leader and did something no one thought they would be able to do.
Many people had discounted the Huskies earlier in the season. Coming off of losses down in the state of Texas to Southern Methodist University and Houston, head coach, Kevin Ollie took the Huskies to AT&T Stadium and had them sit down in the humongous arena. He told his team that this was where they were going to win the national championship. His teams bought in, and eventually made their coach look like a prophet when they did just that.
In the first round, the Huskies were on the brink of elimination against the Hawks from St. Josephs. In fact, had the Hawks made their free throws they very well could have knocked off the Huskies, and this remarkable run would have never happened. But if there was one thing you learned in this tournament it was to never bet against Shabazz Napier.
Napier had the ultimate roller coaster ride of a four-year career. His freshman year, behind Walker, the Huskies won their third national championship. After a successful sophomore campaign, Napier and the Huskies hit rock bottom. Legendary head coach Jim Calhoun retired on the verge of huge sanctions that would crush the program. The Huskies weren’t allowed to participate in any kind of postseason tournament for Napier’s junior year. Upon hearing the news, two of UConn’s best players left the program for the NBA and two others transferred out as well. Napier himself even considered transferring out of the program, thinking that Calhoun had betrayed him. Thankfully for UConn fans, Napier stuck around and put up with no postseason in his junior season, to eventually lead the Huskies to their fourth championship since 1999.
As the Huskies run continued, so did the legend of Napier. They upset another Philadelphia school, Villanova, in the second round, before taking on Iowa State. Iowa State was sure to end this run. The much more physical and bigger guards of DeAndre Kane and company would surely end Napier in his tracks, right? Wrong. After defeating Iowa State, the Huskies turned their focus on, many people’s brackets champions, Michigan State. In a back and forth game, Napier was able to take over late and once again pull the Huskies past a more talented team. It was at this point that the Huskies had the countries eyes glued on them.
They dominated the Florida Gators to the surprise of everyone. Florida was experienced, had great guards, a powerful frontcourt, and a national championship winning coach. But the Huskies once again had Napier. The Huskies had proven everyone wrong, and most people thought that there unbelievable run would continue right to the championship, over the inexperienced Kentucky Wildcats. They didn’t disappoint. The Wildcats made their runs to keep the game close, but there was just too much Napier.
The Huskies were champions. The confetti came pouring down on the Huskies and Napier. Their dream that started when they sat in the seats of AT&T Stadium back in January had become a reality. They had shocked the world for the second time in four years, this time behind Batman’s Robin, Shabazz Napier.