First off, his name is cool: Shabazz Napier. Sounds the hero in a blaxploitation film.

And his game fits the part. The Connecticut point guard is skilled, as tough as he is tiny, and clutch. All of it was on display Sunday as he led the Huskies to an upset over national favorite Michigan State.

Yes, size is important. Rebounding, defense, hustle -- all are critical elements of being a contender in March Madness. But nothing, however, beats having a dominant guard. Certainly nothing is more special to watch.

And Napier brings that special to the Final Four.

"His swagger, his confident arrogance of how good we are, transfers to everybody on this team," Jim Calhoun, the former UConn coach who brought Napier to the Huskies, told the New York Post.

Napier continues the tournament's tradition of little men carrying their team.

It's even sweeter that he's undersized and athletically limited. Kemba Walker was an exceptional athlete. Kyrie Irving was an elite talent. Russ Smith's team was loaded.

But if Napier pulls this off, it will be largely because of his skill and his heart and his leadership. He's 6-foot-1, not incredibly athletic and doesn't have much around him by way of NBA talent. He has had that level of talent around him in previous years, but NCAA sanctions set the Huskies back. They're not supposed to be here, but Napier won't let them lose.

There is no real Cinderella this season. All of the Final Four teams are noted basketball programs, even if they've struggled at times. But watching Napier etch his name among great tournament guards is as riveting.


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  • Even though the Stanford men didn't make it, the Bay Area was represented well in the Elite Eight. Deer Valley High School product Marcus Lee, a freshman at Kentucky, came off the bench to become a factor in the Wildcats' upset of Michigan.

    He had totaled 141 minutes all season before being pressed into action with the injury to big man Willie Cauley-Stein. But coach John Calipari might end up turning to his Bay Area weapon against Wisconsin.

    With Go-Go-Gadget arms, Lee sucked up seven offensive rebounds in 15 minutes, converting four put-back dunks in route to 10 points. He totaled nine points during SEC play.

    Oddly enough, Calipari predicted Lee would be a factor.

    "You all know Cal's always right," Lee said with a laugh during the postgame new conference. "None of us believed him."

  • Speaking of Kentucky, the Wildcats are often pointed to as what's wrong with basketball. Calipari openly advocates for his players to go pro. Kentucky is usually stocked with one-and-done players, and this year is no exception.

    Ruining college hoops, right?

    The Kentucky men's basketball team made $20 million in 2012-13, per Forbes. And now it is headed to the Final Four, on the incredible game-winning shot of freshman Aaron Harrison, which means a cash windfall for the program.

    Per ESPN's Darren Rovell, Calipari gets a $150,000 bonus for making the Final Four. Even the athletic director gets another $25,000. Both of those bonuses are on top of already-lucrative salaries.

    If his scholarship is his salary, what is Harrison's bonus? Considering, you know, he made the shot that put them in the Final Four.

  • You are now free to hop on the Florida bandwagon.

    The past two times the Gators made the Final Four, they won the title. They are the most complete team of the quartet despite not having projected NBA stars.

    Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.