All season long, Connecticut should have been right up there near the top of the ranks. With guys like Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright running the show, you’d think the Huskies would be able to dominate. Given how important guard play is in March Madness, Connecticut was tailor made for going deep in the tournament, yet everyone assumed they’d choke.
That might be because not that long ago they lost to Louisville by … let me check my stats here … like a thousand points. They got annihilated by a good team, but the real reason they lost was because Napier and Boatright did not show up. No team has two players that are more crucial to the team’s success than Connecticut, given the potential of how good they can be when those two guards are hitting on all cylinders.
Then comes the x-factor, DeAndre Daniels. In the first half, Napier and Boatright were knocking down threes, slashing and kicking to open guys, and causing havoc in transition. In the second half, they were average, and therefore Iowa State made the run everyone knew they were going to make at some point.
Daniels, a 6-foot-9 forward out of the great city of Los Angeles, became the star of the show in the second half. He knocked down threes, he cleaned up rebounds down low and made plays on defense. This kid was the reason Connecticut moved onto the Elite Eight. He ended up with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Not a bad double-double in Madison Square Garden.
By the way, the “home” crowd for Connecticut was absolutely a factor. It really felt like a classic Madison Square Garden college game, and after a long time without it in the tourney, I think it should continue to be a location for NCAA tournament games. The energy is just too good to waste.