New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the most versatile guards in the country will go head-to-head as Shabazz Napier and the Connecticut Huskies clash with DeAndre Kane and the Iowa State Cyclones in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden.
Kane was the hero last Sunday, as his driving layup in the final seconds was the difference for the third-seeded Cyclones in an 85-83 victory over sixth- seed North Carolina. ISU now have 28 wins on the campaign, which is the most since the 2000 season, which also was the last time Iowa State was in the Sweet 16.
UConn has a bit more familiarity with this phase of the NCAA Tournament, having made 16 previous trips to the Sweet 16, most recently during the 2011 national championship run. However, the seventh-seeded Huskies were not expected to make it this far, but by knocking off second-seed Villanova (77-65) last Saturday, they kept the season alive.
These teams met for the first and only time during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, when eighth-seed Iowa State claimed a 77-64 victory over ninth-seed UConn in the second round. The winner this time around will advance to Sunday's Elite Eight round against either Virginia or Michigan State.
Napier may not have hit a game-winner for UConn in the round of 32, but he was certainly the driving force in the upset of Villanova. He knocked down 9-of-13 shots from the floor and finished with a game-high 25 points for the Huskies, who limited the Wildcats to just 35.3 percent shooting.
UConn is a team that plays at a deliberate pace and relies heavily on its talented group of guards. Chief among them is Napier, who leads the team in scoring (17.8 ppg), rebounds (5.9 rpg), assists (4.9 apg) and steals (1.8 spg). Such a productive year from the senior, who was a freshman on the 2011 national title team, earned him American Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. Napier has plenty of help in the backcourt thanks to Ryan Boatright (11.9 ppg, 3.5 apg) and 3-point marksman Niels Giffey (8.4 ppg, .519 3P percentage). The Huskies are thinner up front, with DeAndre Daniels (12.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) their best frontcourt option.
It looked like Iowa State may be headed for an early exit late in the game against North Carolina. The Cyclones trailed 76-68 with just over four minutes to play, but from there closed the gap quickly with eight points and eventually won the game on Kane's game-winning layup. There was some controversy near the end, as the refs used video replay to determine that North Carolina ran out of time before calling a timeout on the final possession of the contest.
Kane (17.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg) doesn't lead the team in scoring or rebounds and he didn't win Big 12 Player of the Year. However, he is still an extremely productive guard, who puts up numbers in every section of the box score. The biggest obstacle to player of the year honors for Kane was teammate Melvin Ejim (18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg,), who actually received the award. Ejim is a versatile scorer that can shoot from anywhere on the floor and is needed even more now with Georges Niang (16.7 ppg) lost in the second round to a season- ending knee injury. Dustin Hogue (10.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) stepped up in a big way in the team's first game without Niang, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds against North Carolina.