NCAA Tournament Observations: Amaker builds something special
Tommy Amaker has revived basketball at Harvard with the Crimson poised to make NCAA Tournament appearances for as long as Amaker hangs around there. And there's no reason for him to leave anytime soon.
1. Tommy Amaker has taken a seat at the table with Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall and Steve Fisher.
Those three guys are all coaches who have been able to build national programs outside of a BCS conference, and Amaker has now done the same thing at Harvard. The Crimson have won games in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons and took Michigan State to the wire Saturday night before falling by seven. Amaker shouldn't even think about considering another job unless Mike Krzyzewski decides to retire a few years earlier than all of us expect him to. Why is that exactly? Harvard is going to get players. Harvard is going to keep making the NCAA Tournament. Harvard is going to be nationally relevant as long as Amaker is the face of its program. Is it worth leaving all that to take over a struggling BCS program just to say that you're coaching in the ACC or Big Ten? I didn't think so, either.
2. Shabazz Napier is college basketball's version of Sam Cassell.
I'm not going to come out and say that Napier will have the same type of impact that Cassell did in the NBA, but UConn 's senior point guard has the same mentality as the stone cold assassin that won back-to-back NBA titles with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995. Just like Cassell, Napier wants to take -- and believes he will make -- every shot he takes. The first-team All-American was the difference Saturday night against Villanova when the Huskies found separation in the second half and beat the Wildcats by 12. Napier finished with 25 points and was 9 of 13 from the floor and 4 of 8 from 3-point range. The power of belief is one of the strongest weapons in sports, and Napier has just that. Cassell had the same thing throughout his NBA career, and Napier has adopted the same philosophy at the college level. There's no stage that's too big for this guy. That's a good thing considering where UConn will play its next game -- Madison Square Garden.
3. Alex Poythress will be a major key for Kentucky against Wichita State.
Why? Because the Wildcats are going to need somebody to match up defensively with Cleanthony Early (23 points, 7 rebounds vs. Cal Poly). Julius Randle obviously has the ability to dominate the Shockers on the interior when Kentucky is on offense but he's not quick enough laterally to defend Early on defense. John Calipari has gone through spurts when he's used Poythress and Randle together on the floor, and don't be surprised if you see that combination Sunday against Wichita State . Poythress is the Wildcats' best hope to defend Early one-on-one if UK is to have a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 and face Louisville.
4. Dwayne Polee has become San Diego State's secondary scoring option.
The redshirt junior has tallied double-figures in four consecutive games and scored 15 points to go with 6 rebounds in Saturday's 63-44 win over North Dakota State. The 6-foot-7 Polee worked diligently on his outside shot last summer and it has paid major dividends this season. After only making six 3-pointers a year ago, Polee has already knocked down 33 shots from deep this season. Xavier Thames (30 points vs. North Dakota State) has always been the Aztecs' alpha dog, but Polee has taken his place as Steve Fisher's secondary scorer. How valuable has Polee been over the past two weeks? There's no way San Diego State would be going to the Sweet 16 without him.
5. Iowa State needs to get mileage out of Daniel Edozie against North Carolina.
Who is Daniel Edozie? That's a very good question. The 6-8 forward has only appeared in 22 games this season for the Cyclones but with Georges Niang done for the rest of the NCAA Tournament with a foot injury, Edozie will have to be able to stay on the floor in stretches on Sunday against the Tar Heels. The junior only averaged 1.1 points and 1.5 rebounds in 5.2 minutes but needs to provide Iowa State with a capable interior presence that will be able to battle North Carolina's front line on the glass. Fred Hoiberg will lean on an undersized front court -- Dustin Hogue and Melvin Ejim -- for long stretches in this game but he needs four to five minutes a half out of Edozie if the Cyclones are to advance to the Sweet 16.
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