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The New Napiers: Who will be able to replicate Shabazz Napier’s 2014 title run?

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Shabazz Napier became an immortal figure in college basketball.

The former UConn point guard led the Huskies to a 2014 national title as a No. 7 seed.

And now that we know Kevin Ollie isn’t a very good coach, Napier’s heroics look even more impressive over time.

The All-American was a known player with an established track record entering the 2014 tournament.

His six-game stretch through March turned him a superstar who will likely be forever recognized.

He’s the standard-bearer for a lead guard who took over and won a tournament.

Even LeBron wanted to play with Napier after that run.

In our quest to find a new Napier, we only considered teams below No. 2 seeds — since Napier’s run wasn’t from a major title favorite. That means some talented guards like Joel Berry, Jalen Brunson, Devonte’ Graham and Carsen Edwards were left off this list. These New Napiers also need to be high-scoring, high-usage guards who consistently have the ball in their hands. Napier had four games of at least 22 points during his ridiculous six-game stretch. That means some great guards on balanced rosters were also left off this list.

The 2018 NCAA Tournament has plenty of potential Shabazz Napiers lurking in the shadows. Can any of them match the incredible run of 2014? Here are some schools with potentially new Napiers to keep an eye on.

Shabazz Napier (AP Photo)

KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Before suffering a turf toe injury late in the regular seasons, Evans was looking like a potential first-team All-American for the Red Raiders. Although the injury slowed him down a little bit, Evans had a knack for making big plays and big shots during the regular season. He was the clutch player Texas Tech needed on many nights. A second-team All-American, the senior had two big scoring outings in his last three games. That could be a sign that Evans is healthier and ready to go for the Big Dance.

JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: The engine that makes West Virginia go, Carter is the top defensive player on this list while also being a credible threat on offense. The NABC national Defensive Player of the Year last year, Carter has improved his offensive consistency during his senior season. Putting up 17.0 points, 6.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game, Carter was a third-team All-American this season.

ROB GRAY, Houston: If Shea Serrano hops on the bandwagon, you’re probably doing something right. The Houston senior actually saw his scoring numbers dip this season but it was mostly because Gray became a more well-rounded perimeter threat. Still capable of dropping 30-point games on elite teams — Gray had 33 in an AAC semifinal win over Wichita State last week — Gray is a hard-nosed competitor on both ends of the floor. Don’t be fooled by the man bun. Gray will defend the length of the floor and knock down cold-blooded perimeter jumpers with a hand in his face.

COLLIN SEXTON, Alabama: We already saw Sexton put together a major run during the SEC Tournament. So we already know that he’s capable of carrying a team to victory over quality competition. Although the Crimson Tide fell short in the semifinals, Sexton’s scoring outbursts and ability to create for teammates was a huge storyline in St. Louis. Sexton might have single-handedly put Alabama into the tournament with two quality wins when they were squarely on the bubble to begin the week. Does Sexton have another ridiculous run in him these next few weeks? Enjoy watching this hyperactive freshman while you can before he becomes a lottery pick in June.

MARCUS FOSTER, Creighton: There aren’t many badder dudes on this list to begin with. And then you also factor that Foster and Creighton are facing Foster’s former school (and head coach that dismissed him) in the first round? Foster against Kansas State and Bruce Weber is a huge revenge game for the senior as he’ll get a chance at redemption after a promising start to his career in Manhattan. This season, Foster is putting up 20.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game during another great campaign. It will be fascinating to see if Foster and Creighton can win the first game against the Wildcats and use it as a springboard into the second round against No. 1 seed Virginia.

JAYLEN ADAMS (and Matt Mobley), St. Bonaventure: The First Four features a lot of dangerous guards who can take over and win a game. Since these teams are also in the First Four, they are flawed groups who likely need big performances from these guards to advance. Adams and Mobley, a pair of seniors, have the goods to deliver some wins. Both averaged over 37 minutes per game this season and both fill it up from all over the floor. The duo combines to average 38.3 points per game. Adams is the more likely to explode for a 40-point game thanks to his ridiculous 45 percent three-point shooting.

JAYLEN BARFORD (and Daryl Macon), Arkansas: Similar to St. Bonaventure, but locked in at a No. 7 seed, the Razorbacks are going to be relying a lot on this senior duo to make plays. Barford and Macon don’t need to play as many minutes or take as many shots as the St. Bonaventure duo, but they combine to put up 34.9 points per game while both of them shoot over 42 percent from three-point range. Since this duo also has an emerging big man in Daniel Gafford and another veteran guard in Anton Beard, they might not have to do as much by themselves as some others on this list.

KHADEEN CARRINGTON, Seton Hall: The Seton Hall senior is getting hot at just the right time. Carrington is already having a very good senior season. But over his last five games, he’s averaging 22.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for the Pirates. That stretch included games against four NCAA tournament teams. Carrington is also an 83 percent free-throw shooter who would be among the Tournament’s more reliable closers. On a veteran team, Carrington could be a dangerous catalyst.

TRA HOLDER (and Shannon Evans), Arizona State: The first few weeks of the season were dominated by Arizona State and this senior backcourt duo. While the Sun Devils cooled off to the point of playing in the First Four and barely making the field — these two guards still have the potential to be lethal. Evans and Holder both fire up insane amounts of three-pointers, and if one, or both, get hot then it spells trouble for an opponent. The duo has also been through some cold stretches over the final months of the season, so they could just as easily help shoot Arizona State right out of the tournament.

AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA: The younger brother of Justin and Jrue Holiday feels like the most underrated All-American in the country — which is very odd considering he plays at UCLA and has NBA bloodlines. After being the nation’s best sixth man last year, Holiday has taken control from Lonzo Ball and put together a great year, averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from three. Holiday faces the St. Bonaventure duo of Adams and Mobley in a First Four game that you need to make a priority in your viewing schedule.

TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: Probably the most obvious name on this list, Young took the basketball world by storm with his deep shooting range and monster numbers to open the year. Oklahoma was a top-ten team and looked like a potential top seed. Then teams started throwing crazy traps and schemes at Young and Oklahoma during Big 12 play.

The Sooners (and in some games, Young) responded poorly and faltered enough to barely get into this tournament as a No. 10 seed. But Young still led the nation in points and assists (as a freshman!) and he has the type of range nobody can match in this event. If he gets supernova-level hot, then who knows?

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.

Report: Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson suffers another fracture in foot

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Bonzie Colson rushed back from a broken foot to try and help his Notre Dame team get into the NCAA tournament this season.

They were bumped out of the field when Davidson upset Rhode Island and earned the Atlantic 10’s third bid to the league tournament. The Fighting Irish were NIT bound, and in their second round loss to Penn State late last week, Colson reinjured the left foot that held him out of action for eight weeks.

On Wednesday, Yahoo reported that Colson suffered another fracture in the foot.

“I’m sitting there and he’s limping off and I’m going, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” coach Mike Brey said after the game. “Everything we’ve been through? I thought we were out of the woods with him.”

There was a poignant moment at the end of the game.

Colson’s injury came during the third quarter. He returned to the bench at Purcell Pavilion with ice on his foot after going into the locker room. With 30 seconds left and a loss imminent, Colson walked right past Mike Brey, said “I’m going in”, and finished his college career on the court.

Colson is a potential second round pick. He was an all-american last year and a preseason selection this year. He was averaging 19.7 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks when he was injured.