Napier is 6 feet 1 and Boatright is listed at 6-0, which is pushing it. Villanova's backcourt features 6-6 Darrun Hilliard, 6-6 James Bell and 6-3 Ryan Arcidiacono. But it's nothing new.
"Man, I've been small all my life," Boatright said. "Growing up in Chicago, everybody was taller. My father, my grandfather, they were always putting me out there to play with grown men. Growing up like that, you pick it up as you go along.
Napier, UConn's leading scorer at 16.9 points a game, tells a similar story.
"I was always the littlest guy out on the court," he said. "You learn how to get around bigger guys."
Bigger backcourts have rarely been an impediment to Napier and Boatright, the heart and soul of a Huskies team that takes a surprising 17-6 record (7-4 Big East) into the game against Villanova on Saturday at noon at the XL Center. The Huskies stunned No. 6 Syracuse in that building Wednesday night, and the Orange's guards, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, were not enough to outmaneuver the Huskies' pair at either end of the floor.
"They really embrace the challenge of it," said assistant Karl Hobbs, an undersized UConn guard during his playing days. "What makes them tough is that they are both very good long-range shooters, so teams have to respect that. And then they can penetrate so well. So it makes it hard to match up with them, and I think this year they understand each other so much better."
There have been games in which Boatright's penetration game was neutralized, but he got his touch back against Seton Hall on Feb. 10, scoring 20 points, getting to the line 10 times and making all 10 shots. Against Syracuse, he stretched the Orange's zone defense by hitting 3 of 4 three-point attempts and finished with 17 points. He is averaging 15.9.
Napier had 10 points and seven assists against Syracuse and 22 points, nine assists and six steals against Seton Hall.
"They've been small their whole life," said coach Kevin Ollie, who at 6-3 was a big guard as a player. "I don't think they've ever been the biggest guards on the court. But they relish the challenge and they've done a great job to get this far, and now they aspire to go to the NBA, the next level, and guards aren't going to be small there."
Villanova (15-10, 6-6) has had a crazy season, beating Syracuse and Louisville, yet losing to Columbia by 18 points. If the Huskies, who trail the Big East leaders by one game in the loss column, are to break out from the pack, they will need to build on their emotional win against Syracuse with a victory here.
Villanova, with 6-10 Mouphtaou Yarou, 6-11 Daniel Ochefu and 6-6 JayVaughn Pinkston, have a big frontcourt and have been one of the better rebounding teams in the Big East. The Wildcats have 77 more defensive rebounds than their opponents.
So in addition to their penetration and kick-out game, the Huskies will have to continue their team approach to rebounding, which has worked well the past couple of games. DeAndre Daniels leads the Huskies with 5.0 a game and is averaging 5.6 against Big East opponents.
"We've finally got a guy at 5.0, so we're moving in the right direction," Ollie said. "DeAndre is going and getting the basketball; he is making it a must instead of a should."
With Enosch Wolf suspended, the Huskies remain thin up front. Ollie will ask Phil Nolan to build on the encouraging 14 minutes he played against Syracuse and use a lot of Daniels and Niels Giffey together for a small, quick look. He even floated the idea of using freshman Leon Tolksdorf, who is 6-8 and thick, at center.
Unlike UConn's recent opponents, Villanova plays more man-to-man than zone, so the Huskies had to use their quick turnaround time to get acclimated to that.
"Villanova poses a different challenge," Ollie said. "We looked at the film from Syracuse, the things we did well, the things we did wrong. Now we're changing the channel. Get a win — that's how you build on it."