March 26, 2014 - Dylan Burkhardt
DeAndre Kane vs. Shabazz Napier
There are plenty of great matchups on the Sweet 16 docket. Kentucky-Louisville needs no further explanation and there’s plenty of intrigue behind the other games. Michigan State-Virginia features a four seed that is favored by Las Vegas, Dayton-Stanford guarantees a double-digit seed in the Elite Eight, Wisconsin-Baylor features two of the top three offenses left in the field. There should be no shortage of terrific basketball to watch this weekend, but Iowa State-UConn boasts perhaps the top individual matchup: Shabazz Napier vs. DeAndre Kane.
Physically and stylistically, these two guards couldn’t be more different. Napier is listed at a generous 6-foot-1, 180 pounds while Kane stands 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. One roams the perimeter while the other powers his way into the paint.
Napier was Kemba Walker’s sidekick in 2011, now he’s almost a reincarnation – right down to the step-back jumper.
His game is heavy on the jump shot, but he’s very efficient for a small, high-usage, guard.
Napier is dynamite from the left wing and into the mid-range. He has some holes in his game, at the top of the key and at some spots on the right side of the floor, but he has one of the more mature mid-range games in the country. He’s shooting 42% on mid-range jumpers this season, an above-average number nationally, and is an all-around scorer.
Then there’s DeAndre Kane, a completely different player.
Simply put, Kane is a bully with the ball in his hands. He muscles his way into the paint and can finish around the rim. He’s improved his three-point shot, but finishing in the paint is still his bread and butter. Over two-thirds of his field goal attempts are in the paint and he has the quickness to get by bigger guards or post-up smaller guards.
Breaking down where both players attempt their shots — paint, two-point jumpers, threes — begins to illuminate the differences in their games. Over two-thirds of Kane’s shots are in the paint, whereas Napier has much more balance to his game – he can shoot the jumper from three or in the mid-range and he’ll attack the rim enough to keep opposing defenses honest.
Both Kane and Napier’s NCAA tournament shot charts mirror their favorite spots. Kane made 12 shots in the paint in two games, and only scored two baskets outside of the paint.
Napier has also been effective at the rim, 8-of-11 on layups, but he’s had his jumper working as well. He buried two of his classic mid-range jumpers along with threes from some of his favorite zones (and misses from where he’s struggled).
Friday’s matchup should be basketball theater in the Mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden. For all of their differences, both Napier and Kane have shown the knack for making plays in crunch time. Napier has been hitting game winning shots for his whole career and Kane made one to send the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 — lowering his shoulders, driving through a crowd and finishing over a shot blocker.
This will be Kane or Napier’s last college game, but odds are that they’ll leave us with at least one more big shot to remember.