As the No. 1 overall seed, most people expected Florida to be in the Final Four. While No. 7 Connecticut was much more of a surprise, there is no reason this shocking run needs to end.
The Huskies made it through a difficult bracket in the East region, defeating Saint Joseph's, Villanova, Iowa State and Michigan State en route to the Final Four in Kevin Ollie's first NCAA tournament. Shabazz Napier has been the star, but everyone on the roster has been playing at a high level in recent weeks.
However, the Gators will represent a tougher challenge with four senior starters and one of the deepest rosters in college basketball. They enter the national semifinals with a 30-game winning streak that includes a perfect run through the SEC regular season and tournament.
This will be an excellent matchup for fans, but the game will be decided by a few specific battles by the individuals on the court. Here is a look at the top competitions to watch in the Final Four.
All Your Bracket Essentials
- Download the Printable Bracket
- Follow the Latest Bracket Updates Live
- Play the Free Bracket Challenge
Top Individual Matchups
Patric Young vs. Amida Brimah
Florida gets most of its scoring from its perimeter players as Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Michael Frazier find ways to get baskets either from shooting or driving into the lane. However, the Gators also need balance inside, which means plenty of Patric Young.
Young is a bit of an undersized center, but he has a great motor and knows how to finish baskets in the post. He has averaged at least 10 points per game in each of the past three seasons and can often be relied upon to add easy baskets on offensive rebounds.
Unfortunately, those putbacks will not be too easy in this matchup if Amida Brimah is in the middle of the floor. The freshman center stands at 7'0" and is developing into a quality shot-blocker and rebounder.
Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports also noted the effect the big man has when he is not putting up stats:
Amida Brimah only has one block so far, but he's forced Melvin Ejim to change about three or four shots at the rim.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 28, 2014
While Brimah was not a good matchup for Adreian Payne on Michigan State due to the forward's ability to shoot from outside, Young does not represent this threat, and he has the ability to shut down the senior offensively.
If Young cannot get offensive boards or finish shots inside, it will put a lot more pressure on the Florida backcourt.
Dorian Finney-Smith vs. DeAndre Daniels
Just like Brimah will be used mostly for his defensive ability, Dorian Finney-Smith will have that role for Florida as he is the best player to match up against DeAndre Daniels.
Daniels was Connecticut's second-leading scorer during the season, but he has turned it on since the start of the NCAA tournament. The forward has 68 points in four games, including a 27-point, 10-rebound performance in the Sweet 16 win over Iowa State.
According to Dan Greene of Sports Illustrated, assistant coach Kevin Freeman tried to explain the recent burst, "Maybe it’s the bright lights. When he does that, we’re a pretty lethal weapon. He’s that engine we need, that second key to really get going."
Daniels has truly come through at an important time as a necessary second scorer while Napier does his job. Without him, Connecticut might struggle to match Florida offensively.
This will be Finney-Smith's job as a versatile defender who has the size and athleticism to guard Daniels. Prather is too small to handle the interior duties, while the team does not want Young moving to the perimeter.
That is where the SEC's Sixth Man of the Year comes into play. Finney-Smith might not need to do much offensively, but if he can limit what Daniels can do on the other side of the court, Florida has a good chance of coming away victorious.
Scottie Wilbekin vs. Shabazz Napier
There will be plenty of storylines to follow throughout the game, but nothing will be bigger than the point guard battle between Wilbekin and Napier. Both of these players were named to CBS Sports' All-American team and have received plenty of individual awards throughout the year.
More than just putting up solid numbers, each guard knows how to contribute on both ends of the court while playing their best in the biggest moments of each game.
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports had some good things to say about Napier after the latest win:
Shabazz Napier has just cemented his legacy as one of the best players in UConn history. Took a team on his back to the Final Four.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 30, 2014
Meanwhile, Wilbekin has been just as impressive in the tournament while providing late scoring in key moments. He also has produced this incredible statistic:
Scottie Wilbekin has not committed a turnover in his last 94 minutes on the court.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
These players will battle for at least 40 minutes, and it will be thrilling to watch no matter who has the ball. Napier got the advantage the last time they matched up with a game-winning shot in December:
However, both seniors will be ready to lead their team to the national championship game. The winner of this individual matchup will have a good chance of advancing.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.