Shabazz Napier carries No. 7 UConn into the Sweet 16

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Shabazz Napier has already earned a permanent place in the hearts of UConn fans, but he took a major step in the pursuit of his Kemba Walker moment on Saturday night.

With the No. 7 seed Huskies locked in a battle with No. 2 Villanova, a former Big East rival, Napier buried three straight ridiculous three to extend the UConn lead to as much as 11 points in a 77-65 upset that didn’t really feel all that much like an upset.

In total, Napier scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half despite the fact that: A) he played just eight first half minutes thanks to foul trouble, B) he rolled his left ankle on a jump shot in the first half and C) he suffered some kind of shin injury in the second half that left him writhing in pain and with a bag of ice on his leg before the final buzzer had sounded.

It was just another in a long line of dominant, clutch performances from UConn’s leader this season, far too many to list here.

But here’s the better news: UConn caught a break when they were placed in the East Region. The Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 will be played Madison Square Garden, and as any fan of the Big East will tell you, when UConn plays at the Garden, the Garden is packed. It may not be a home game, per se, but with the winner of No. 3 Iowa State — who will be without Georges Niang — and No. 6 North Carolina up next, there’s no reason to believe that the Huskies can’t pull off a run.

Particularly if they get this kind of play out of Napier.

Here’s the irony, however.

As good as Napier was, the most important part of this game was the play that UConn got off the bench from the likes of Lasan Kromah and Terrence Samuel. Think about it like this: Napier played eight minutes in the first half. Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels finished the night a combined 7-for-22 from the floor. If it wasn’t for Kroman and Samuel combining for 23 points off the bench, the Huskies would not have led at halftime and they would not be heading to the Garden.

But they did, and they are.

 

NCAA denies extra-year request by NC State guard Henderson

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.

Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.

The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.

Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.

 

N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.