The Florida Gators haven't lost a game since December 2. The team is on an amazing 30-game winning streak heading into the Final Four.
There's only one problem. The team that last beat the Gators is their opponent in the national semifinal.
After upsetting the Michigan State Spartans 60-54 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, the UConn Huskies are set to try to hand Florida another loss, break its long winning streak and punch a ticket in the national championship.
Talk about a big game.
After the Huskies snapped Michigan State's four-year player Final Four streak, UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said this, per Nicole Auerbach of USA Today:
Kevin Ollie on MSU's 4-year player Final Four streak: "Streaks are made to be broken."— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 30, 2014
Ollie will have to keep his team in that mindset to break the Gators' run.
Florida turned away the upstart Dayton Flyers 62-52 on Saturday to earn its spot. The winner of the Florida-UConn battle will face the team that survives the Kentucky-Wisconsin clash on the other side of the bracket.
Matters between Florida and UConn will be settled on Saturday, April 5. The game can be seen on TBS and begins at 6:09 pm ET. You can also watch the game via live stream on March Madness Live.
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Key Players to Watch
Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
It's somewhat difficult to find a star on the Gators roster. There may not be one, but Wilbekin has established himself as the leader.
He's averaging 18 points per game over the last two contests. However, more than what he's done statistically, he's asserted himself in tough situations when his team has needed a big play on offense.
The three he sank at the end of the first half against Dayton was one example.
In addition to making big plays, Wilbekin has taken great care of the ball. Check out this stat from ESPN Stats and Info:
Scottie Wilbekin has not committed a turnover in his last 94 minutes on the court.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
Because of the player he'll be matched against, Wilbekin will have to be sharp yet again.
Shabazz Napier, UConn
The Wilbekin-Napier matchup will be a good one.
Napier has been everything for UConn this season, especially in the NCAA tournament.
He's averaging 23.2 points per game in the Huskies' four tournament games. His ability to break down defenders and find his teammates makes him one of the nation's most dangerous players.
Napier and the entire UConn team have been nearly automatic from the free-throw line. ESPN Stats and Info has more on Napier's scoring and free-throw shooting prowess:
Shabazz Napier: 1st player with 25 or more points who shot 9-9 or better from FT line in an Elite 8 win since Christian Laettner, 1992 Duke— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
The UConn senior will need help to beat Florida, but he'll also have to be just as big as he's been all tournament long.
What Florida Must Do to Win
The Gators have to force someone besides Napier to beat them. Napier has proved all year long that he can carry the team offensively. He's been dynamic during the tournament, but he's had a nice array of support in each game.
The Gators defense must focus on shutting down DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright. To a degree, Florida can allow Napier to get his points, but it can't afford to have a member of his supporting cast have a big game as well.
What UConn Must Do to Win
Matching Florida's defensive intensity is key for UConn. The Gators hang their hat on their ability to lock teams down. If UConn is going to compete, it has to be fierce on the perimeter as well as in the paint.
Daniels needs to make his presence felt here, which is something he doesn't always do.
Amida Brimah's activity around the basket, blocking and altering shots would also be a great boost for the Huskies.
Who wins UConn-Florida?
UConn has already accomplished more than almost everyone thought it would. But it's hard to imagine slender post players like Daniels and Brimah holding their own against Florida's Patric Young in the paint.
The Gators' advantage on the glass and in overall physicality in the paint will be too much for UConn to overcome.
Florida will keep its win streak alive and advance to the national championship game.
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