The obvious issue for Cincinnati in 2014-15 is how to replace first-team All-America guard Sean Kilpatrick, who finished his career as the second-leading scorer in school history behind the legendary Oscar Robertson.
When Kelvin Sampson tries to convince a high school prospect to play basketball for Houston, he’s probably not going to spend too much time talking about the glory days of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
Three Final Fours, two Hall of Famers and one great team nickname (Phi Slama Jama) in a three-year period is a fine brag sheet — if Sampson could guarantee that these 18-year-old recruits would have any idea who he’s talking about.
“These kids think Michael Jordan is the guy on the Hanes commercial,” Sampson says.
Until recent months, the No. 1 name atop the list of top freshmen in the American Athletic Conference would have been clear. SMU’s Emmanuel Mudiay may have been the top freshman in the country.
The Mustangs may still be an NCAA Tournament team even without one of the NBA’s top prospects at point guard. That’s partly due to another influx of transfers into Larry Brown’s program. New arrivals from Xavier and Texas Tech — both eligible immediately — will give the Mustangs players with experience at a high level.
The 2014 national championship was not a good one for the numbers people.
A No. 7 seed and a No. 8 seed reached the national championship game, a development that in some ways rendered the regular season moot. UConn also didn’t fit the statistical profile of a team to win the national championship, falling short of efficiency ratings that have been the trademark of every national champion for more than a decade.
Not that we really needed it, but the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight weekend showcased why the NCAA Tournament is one of sports’ greatest events.
And not just because six games of the 12 came down to the final seconds.
Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan, one of the game’s most consistent coaches for 30 years, reached his first Final Four. A day later, UConn’s Kevin Ollie, in only his second season has a head coach anywhere, did the same.
The shadow of Kemba Walker continues to follow Shabazz Napier at Connecticut.
The Huskies senior guard has been primed to step into Walker’s shoes since his sophomore season, a year after Walker led UConn to the national title.
Like Walker, Napier is a guard who can carry the Huskies night in and night out. He can create his own shot to an acrobatic degree, at the end of the shot clock or at the buzzer. And Napier is indispensable when he’s not taking shots, leading his team in rebounds and assists.
Elite Eight Preview and Picks: Michigan State Spartans vs. UConn Huskies
Connecticut and Michigan State are proof that patience is a virtue.
The outlook for the Huskies and Spartans, who will meet in the East regional final, could have changed drastically if not key players learning how to recover from disappointments.
Two years ago, UConn was the defending national champion and starting No. 4 in the preseason. Shabazz Napier was expected to take over a team filled with talent — Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drumond and Alex Oriakhi — but that never materialized in a 20-14 season.