For the second time in three years, the Connecticut Huskies will be bringing the NCAA championship trophy back to Storrs, CT after beating the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54. Although he is only in his second season, head coach Kevin Ollie proved why Jim Calhoun wanted him as his successor. The 41-year-old head coach is now 6-0 in the NCAA tournament, and the future looks bright for UConn and Ollie.
Shabazz Napier did what he did all year in this year’s tournament and dominated. Napier had 22 points, six rebounds, six assists and six steals. He showed why he won the Most Outstanding Player award, taking advantage of Kentucky’s inexperienced guards and spreading the ball around with ease through the pick-and-roll game.
In the past few games, DeAndre Daniels carried a big load for the Huskies. Daniels got into foul trouble early, and he wasn’t as effective in the national championship game as he was in the previous few games. So, Napier had to be even better in this game. He only had 12 points in their 63-53 victory over Florida. After 15 minutes of this game, Napier had already 15 points.
Since Kemba Walker led this team to a national title, UConn has gone through a rough time. After an underachieving year and an early exit in the tournament in 2012, it looked as if the program was going down the drain. Calhoun was retiring, and many players were abandoning the program for brighter pastures.
Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb left for the NBA. Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi transferred. Napier and Boatright almost left too, but they both decided to finish what they started in Connecticut.
Despite having nothing to play for in 2013, UConn was a very underrated program. The Huskies finished 20-10 in coach Ollie’s “audition” year as head coach. After noticing his superb coaching, athletic director Warde Manuel awarded Ollie with a five-year contract extension. Ollie taught this team how to play defense, and it translated throughout the 2014 NCAA tournament.
There was always potential with this UConn team. Husky Nation praised Napier for making clutch shots, and it’s going to be difficult to not see him in a UConn uniform next season while an NBA team will gain a stud. His college game may not translate to the NBA, but Napier has a feel for the game that makes him such a good player.
Behind the trio of Napier, Boatright and Ollie, the Huskies are victorious once again, and the future looks as bright as ever for the program and Ollie as they will be raising their fourth banner in 16 years when they get back to Storrs. The UConn women will be playing in the women’s championship, and the girls will have an opportunity to complete the sweep. It is definitely going to be a fun time for Connecticut natives for the next few weeks.