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The Road Ahead: The Huskies just beat the team that I thought had the best combination of talent and experience in the country in Michigan State. But that was predicated on the Spartans being healthy and playing to their abilities. And Keith Appling, who scored 10 points total in the NCAA tournament, was not there.
Now UConn gets to play the team that has all its pieces playing well and probably should have been considered the team with the best combination of talent and experience. Florida is the favorite for good reason.
Reason to Buy: Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels and defense.
Let's start with Daniels, who is playing the best basketball of his career. He is averaging 17 points per game during the NCAA tournament, and he's almost more key to the Huskies playing their best than Napier. With Napier, he has been so consistent you kind of know what you're going to get from him.
That being said, Napier has been exceptionally brilliant in the tourney, especially in New York. In his last three games, the senior guard has knocked down 12-of-23 threes, and these aren't just wide-open shots. Many have been contested and come off the dribble. He's also getting to the line frequently—27 times in the tourney—and he's missed only twice there.
As for UConn's defense, it was at another level against the Spartans. The Huskies took away the paint, and Michigan State was able to make only seven baskets inside the three-point line. Their ball pressure also frustrated the Spartans into 16 turnovers. It will take another defensive performance like that to knock off Florida.
Reason to Sell: The American Athletic Conference team that most resembles Florida is Louisville. Both press. Both are exhausting to play because of that press and how good they are in the half court once you beat it. UConn played Louisville three times and lost three times by a combined 55 points.
The Huskies did play the Gators in December, but Donovan's team at that point was weakened by injuries and was still finding its way with Scottie Wilbekin only playing in his third game. On their home court, the Huskies needed a Napier buzzer-beater to beat a lesser Florida team than the one they'll see on Saturday.
Will Cut Down the Nets If... They play the kind of defense they played against Michigan State for two more games, and both Napier and Daniels are dominant.
The Huskies have nice talent, but they are not as solid up and down the lineup as the other three teams left. It's going to take some special performances from Napier and Daniels to win the title. Kemba Walker was able to do it three years ago, but that team didn't have to face anyone nearly as good as the Gators.
Title Odds: 10-1