Column: Travis Trice of 2015 is beginning to look like Shabazz Napier of 2014
Travis Trice might be this year’s Shabazz Napier.
It’s a premature comparison at the moment, but if the senior MSU guard continues to play the way he has, his legacy will mirror that of the Connecticut Huskie who torched the Spartans in the Elite Eight.
Tell me that this doesn’t sound familiar: A skinny, 6-foot guard dominates NCAA Tournament games for stretches of time and knocks down NBA-range threes to lead his No. 7 seeded team to the Sweet 16.
Throw in wins over No. 10 and No. 2 seeds and a team clicking at the right time and you’re looking at this year’s version of and UConn.
If MSU manages to defeat No. 3 seed Oklahoma on Friday night and if No. 4 seed Louisville can top No. 8 NC State, the Spartans would play the exact same seeds the Huskies played last year en route to the Final Four.
Napier memorably led his team to a national championship last season, and in doing so he ruined MSU’s dream of the same. Before the title game, Napier talked about how physically hungry he was going to bed some nights and stirred up conversation about the benefits student-athletes should receive.
Right now, is playing with just as much hunger.
He’s undoubtedly meeting his nutritional needs, but as a senior, everything he does is about extending his season one more game. The fire is in his eyes, the spark is in his step, and whether it’s as a gunslinger or a distributor, Trice is in championship mode.
In Sunday’s win over Virginia, Trice scored 13 of his team’s first 15 points and finished with 23 points. In the opening game, he totaled 15 points and six assists in a win over Georgia.
Since senior night against Purdue, Trice has carried himself with a sense of urgency and swagger that is impossible to miss. It’s the flexing after a big three, the chirping as he runs down the court and the fast break dunks that prove just how badly he wants these games.
His confidence is unwavering right now despite . With just under three minutes left and a five-point lead over Virginia, Trice waved off a screen and instead, pulled the trigger on a deep three. Good.
That shot and the 18.6 points per game he’s scored in his last seven games point to an extra gear that is now turning. The difference between Trice and Napier, however, is that MSU’s success doesn’t necessarily hinge on big scoring games from Trice.
Sure, the Spartans need their big three to collectively perform at the highest level, but with contributions coming from off the bench and senior forward Branden Dawson playing the way he is around the basket, Trice doesn’t need to carry his team the way Napier did.
Nonetheless, the similarities are there. By the end of this weekend, we’ll know if Trice’s team is as well.