UConn (30-8) vs. Florida (36-2)
When: 607 p.m. EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
|#20||Michael Frazier II||38||33||30.4||12.6||46.0||3.5||1.1||1.1||0.2|
What you should Know
There's a reason Florida has won 30 games in a row, is 36-2, and a 6.5 point favorite today -- they earned it. The Gators haven't lost since UConn beat them on Dec. 2 and they remain the most complete team in the country. The Gators have four players average in double figures and are one of the top defensive teams in the country and are No. 3 in the nation in points against at 57 points per game and hold teams to 39.9 percent from the floor. The Gators are led by Scottie Wilbekin, a senior point guard and SEC Player of the Year who is the floor leader. Casey Prather leads the Gators in scoring at 13.8 per game, while Wilbekin checks in at 13.1 per game. He's a big shot taker and maker and is a terrific on ball defender. Michael Frazier II is a great shooter from the wing and an explosive scorer while Patric Young anchors the paint. Frazier is the one guy on the perimeter, shooting 46 percent from the floor, and the Huskies have to worry about offensive rebounding. They must keep the powerful young and Dorian Finney-Smith off the boards. Florida is deep, athletic and big and plays eight players over 10 minutes. They are physical and are the exact kind of team that has given the Huskies trouble this year.
Ollie's Take"(Florida) presents a big challenge. We played those guys. They pick‑and‑roll guys, they dive hard, Young is a great player, Yeguete brings his challenge, Finney‑Smith shooting the three‑ball, going inside. They present a big challenge for us, and we got to be ready to play. We got to play at a level five. We got to rebound. We got to limit their touches. We got to do our work early. Phil and DeAndre know that because they hear me screaming it each and every day."
Battle in the paintUConn gave up 32 points in the paint to Florida in the first meeting, were out-rebounded 34-26 and gave up 49.9 percent shooting. The Huskies can't allow Young to roam the paint, scoring 17 points inside and forcing UConn to become a perimeter team. The Huskies did a stunning job against Michigan State in the Elite 8 holding the Spartans to only six points in the paint. A lot of that had to do with UConn's defense, with Ryan Boatright and swarming double teams taking Michigan State out of its comfort level. The Huskies have to play even in the paint. Watch for Amida Brimah and Phil Nolan's effect on the shooting of Florida. If Brimah and Nolan can protect the rim, and force Florida outside, they have a chance.
Get to the free throw lineUConn is hitting a stunning 88 percent from the free-throw line in the NCAA tournament. That is otherworldly. It's a boring part of the game, but the Huskies have 81 free-throws in four games, which means it is getting at least 20 points a game from the free-throw line. No team in the nation can stop guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright off the dribble, the key is the second line of defense. Will Boatright and Napier create foul chances, or if not, open shots off the help? That will be the key. If the Huskies can get Florida to foul them, get to the foul line, they become awfully difficult to beat.
Early offenseFlorida is great on defense. The Huskies aren't exactly a running team, but they are good in offensive transition. If the opportunity comes for quick offense, UConn has to take it. Transition 3s, and dives to the hole in transition are the way to get Florida to foul. That starts with rebounding, and the Huskies don't want to push the pace too much, but the Huskies can't slowdown on offense. Napier is the key, he has to know when to push the issue and if it's not there, not take a rushed shot. Florida's one of the best defensive teams in the country and any time you can get easy offense with its defense not set, you have to take that chance.
What's the Final Four without stars? The AAC Player of the Year vs. the SEC Player of the Year in a late game duel to the title game? If that happens, that's all UConn can ask. Napier has been one of the best players in UConn history, is atop all the important all-time lists and already has a legendary feel about his career. Can he deliver two more great performances and etch his name into college basketball history much like Kemba Walker? If he can pull off two more wins, he may go down as the most beloved player in UConn history. That's saying a lot, but two more wins and no one else will have a case to make. Napier is the straw that stirs the drink, is a great player on a Final Four mission, and that's something that's hard to quantify.