After a 24-point, eight-rebound, six-assist performance in the second round against the St. Joseph's Hawks, the UConn Huskies' Shabazz Napier might be in for a rougher game against the Villanova Wildcats on Saturday.
The two old Big East rivals will renew acquaintances with a chance to go to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman can't quite put his finger on why, but he's a fan of the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
I'm a Shabazz Napier guy. Don't have stats or data to back it up. Just think he's good enough to make it.— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) March 21, 2014
One look at his stat line against the Hawks explains why Wasserman might have a hard time finding numbers to back up his support for Napier.
UConn outlasted St. Joseph's 89-81 in overtime to advance to the Round of 32. Napier was the high-point man for his team, but he didn't shoot the ball all that well. He made just 7-of-22 from the field and that included just 2-of-8 from three-point range.
Against Nova, he'll need to be a little more efficient. Here's a look at what to expect from Napier against Villanova on Saturday.
Check out the updated brackets here.
The senior from Roxbury, Mass. is a streaky shooter. He can get hot and shoot the lights out, or go on prolonged stretches where he can't buy a bucket.
The last time he faced Villanova, he experienced the latter. Just last season, when both were still in the Big East and much of the same two rosters were in place, Napier was held to just two points on 1-for-8 shooting.
He missed all five of his three-point attempts.
In fact, Napier has never had success against Nova. In three career games against the Wildcats he is averaging 3.3 points and shooting just 17 percent from the field.
Can he turn that trend around?
There's no doubt Napier has heart. In the overtime period he played well against St. Joseph's. After the game he talked about his commitment to UConn and finishing his career strong, per John Wawrow of The Boston Globe:
"That’s why I came to the University of Connecticut to play in these tournaments, to give myself and my team a chance to hoist that trophy at the end of the day. We’re here for one common goal.’’
Chances are Napier will have a slightly better game than he did last time out against Nova.
The Huskies depend on him heavily, so he'll get a mound of opportunities. But don't expect much in the way of dead-eye shooting.
Napier's Playmaking and Rebounding
Though Napier struggled to make shots against Nova in 2013, and he didn't shoot a high percentage against St. Joseph's, he still created for his teammates. Napier dished out 10 assists in the game against Nova last year. He had six dimes to go with eight boards against St. Joseph's.
If his shot isn't falling, look for him to be aggressive going to the basket and facilitating for his team. He's also a strong rebounder for his size. The eight rebounds was no fluke; the 6'1" Napier leads the Huskies in rebounding, averaging six boards per game this season.
Napier's Ball Handling
As you'll see in the highlight reel below from Thursday's win, Napier can have the ball on string at times.
That said, he can also be careless with it. He had four turnovers on Thursday and that was the 12th time this season he had that many miscues.
His ball security must be better on Saturday if UConn is going to beat Nova and advance to the Sweet 16.
Projected Stat Line for Napier vs. Villanova
- 11 points
- 5 rebounds
- 7 assists
- 3-for-9 from the field
- 1-for-3 from three-point range
- 4-for-4 from free-throw line
- 3 turnovers
Nova is too deep and athletic. Their size and defensive pressure on the perimeter will give Napier and the Huskies issues. Nova will win and end Napier's collegiate career.
All stats per Statsheet.com unless otherwise noted.
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