Back in December, the Connecticut Huskies escaped the Florida Gators with a one point buzzer beating win. Was it a lucky shot by Shabazz Napier? No. The shot was as smooth as any ‘catch n’ shoot’ possession throughout the season. However, the ball bouncing right back to Napier could be one of the luckiest moments of the season. Yet and still, it’s always the lucky bounces that can win or lose a game.
Fortunately for the Gators, they have an opportunity to revenge one of their two losses. Since that game on Dec. 2, Florida has breezed through the season. They’ve won 30 straight games, including three against fellow SEC and Final Four foe, Kentucky.
How They Got Here
The Huskies were almost bounced out of the tournament in the round of 64, but it was an effort play that revived their tournament hopes against ST. Joes. Without an offensive rebound and put back by Amida Brimah, UCONN wouldn’t even be in this position. Brimah also hit the tying foul shot to put the game into overtime.
Since that moment, the Huskies have been rolling. They ran past Villanova to earn their sweet 16 trip to Madison Square Garden. They outlasted an injured Iowa State team, then out muscled the Michigan State Spartans behind a raucous crowd.
Now they face a team that can’t be beat.
During the tournament, they’ve done exactly what they were doing in the regular season. All four tournament victories have been by double figures, and most of the games have been methodically boring.
Only UCLA put up a legitimate fight, but as long as Florida contained Kyle Anderson, the Gators were bound to advance. Florida held the other three tournament opponents to 55 points or less.
They have been great at making spectacular defensive plays so far in the postseason.
Can Connecticut get out and run for some easy baskets? This depends on the coaching. Connecticut has to attack the rim early in the offense and play with a pace that gets Florida off balanced defensively. Yet, they can’t just run into a brick wall while taking bad shots.
Match up Breakdown:
Shabazz Napier vs. Scottie Wilbekin
Both guys are tremendous shot makers, but Napier has the quickness advantage on the perimeter. The backcourt that gets better defensive ball pressure will have the advantage on the offensive end. UCONN is adept at taking teams out of their normal offense. They both average 34 minutes per game, so it will be interesting to see the rest patterns early in the game.
Niels Giffey vs. Michael Frazier II
They aren’t likely to spend much time guarding each other, but when it comes to shooting, these players are the X-factor. Frazier does the majority of his work from 3-point range, while Giffey needs to make the most of his opportunities. We can talk about rebounding and all other intangibles, but if one of these players goes off for six or more three’s, the other team will be hard pressed to match it.
DeAndre Daniels vs. Casey Prather
Prather scored 19 points in the first game against Connecticut, but he’s had ups and downs during the NCAA tournament. Daniels can actually be the best player on the floor. If Connecticut expects to win, he needs to be dominant on the boards. Their activity on the glass will show how focused each player is. It’s a way to get easy buckets.
Both teams are going to throw multiple big men on the court. Connecticut has to deal with Patric Young inside. His size is tough to deal with, but UCONN has height to contend on the post.
If the refs are overzealous with the whistle, the bench will be key at certain points. Let’s see which team can stand tall inside and play physical without fouling. Blocked shots can lead to fast break points on the other end.
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