It may not be March yet, but Monday night provided a taste of the madness that is about to ensue in the coming weeks.
In a Big East battle between struggling UConn and Villanova, the Wildcats tied up the game at 70 with under six seconds remaining in overtime on a relatively easy layup by Tyrone Johnson.
The Huskies decided not to call a timeout, and Shabazz Napier calmly took the ball down the floor, knowing he was about to pull up for a 30-footer for the walkoff on the road.
Napier drains the bucket, and the Huskies get the win to stay on the bubble.
I think ESPN commentator Bill Raftery summed up the courage to take the shot by pronouncing “onions.” Despite shooting 1-of-6 from the field up to that point, Napier never second-guessed himself and came up with one of the most clutch shots of the season.
Far too often in college (and LeBron in the playoffs), you see players desperately trying to dish off the ball so that they aren’t to blame if the shot doesn’t go in. Napier was more than willing to be the goat and turned out to be the hero instead.
The other hero for the Huskies was Jeremy Lamb. The sophomore poured in 32 points and collected five rebounds for a UConn team that didn’t have another player score more than eight. Dominic Cheek led ‘Nova with 23.
Just watching the replay of the shot multiple times reminds you that the greatest month in college basketball is just around the corner, where buzzer-beaters become as common as a Dickie V compliment of Duke.
The Huskies still have a lot of work to do if they plan on attempting to repeat as national champions—with Syracuse and Pittsburgh in addition to the Big East tournament still on the schedule—but they would have been all but finished with a loss on Monday night. The win was only their third in the previous 10 games, but Napier ensured the team still has a pulse entering the home stretch of the season.
There is no doubt that Napier is the star of this Monday night in college hoops.