This Final Four matchup has 2 teams that took 2 separate paths to arrive in Texas. Florida was the number 1 overall seed in the dance and while not always dominating, none of their games against Albany, Pittsburgh, UCLA, and Dayton were ever in doubt and they remain the favorite to win the whole tournament. UConn needed a late rally and some controversial calls to get past Saint Joseph’s in the second round and have never looked back. They proceeded to beat the top teams in their region in Villanova, Iowa State, and Michigan State. The Elite 8 victory over Michigan State was most impressive considering the fact that the Spartans were such heavy favorites and were picked by all ESPN analysts on the day the brackets were announced.
The NCAA tournament has always been known as a guard’s tournament and this game features two of the best and hottest in the country. They are also both seniors, which is rare at big universities this day in age. Scottie Wilbeken is Florida’s leader and the guy that will have the ball in his hands late in games. He has shown the ability to get going quickly so slow starts are not a problem for him. Shabazz Napier is no stranger to the Final Four, having played in one as a freshman for Jim Calhoun. He is unquestionably UConn’s leader both verbally and statistically as evidenced by the fact he led his team in scoring, assists, and rebounds during the regular season. Both teams having such strong guard play from the point guard position means that this game is likely to be played at a good pace and extremely enjoyable to watch.
Florida has the more experienced and battle tested of the group. Wilbeken is going to be able to create a shot whenever his teams needs. Michael Frazier is inconsistent however when he is playing well the Gators are virtually unbeatable. Kasey Hill has the ability to break down the defense and is the best slasher on the team. UConn has arguably the best backcourt in the country with Napier and Ryan Boatright. Napier gets the headlines and he deserves them, however Boatright is solid all around and is a strong defender, capable of shutting down opposing scorers. Niels Giffey is a knockdown shooter.
UConn has a combination of youth and experience in its frontcourt of Philip Nolan and DeAndre Daniels. Daniels has shown the ability to score points in bunches this tournament and could be the key to slowing down an aggressive Gator defense. Nolan will likely be called upon to defend Patrick Young and will need to stay out of foul trouble while doing so. Young leads an experienced Gator frontcourt. He is strong in both the pick and roll and in the post. Will Yeguette and Casey Prather are both very athletic and provide their versatility on both ends of the floor.
The bottom line is UConn will needs another big game from Napier and Daniels and without that they will have a tough time getting a win. Florida is the much deeper team and can rely on multiple players to help them win. The coaching matchup has the experienced Billy Donovan who has guided teams to Final Four success in the past matched up with Kevin Ollie who may not have coaching experience but has tons of experience as a player. His positive method to coaching may be the main reason UConn is in this position.
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