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Florida vs. UConn: Key Factors That Will Decide Outcome of Final Four Showdown

Connecticut's Ryan Boatright  looks to shoot a free throw during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Florida, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill
Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2014

Clichés abound thanks to the pairing of Florida and UConn in the Final Four.

Let's skip those and get right to the heart of the issue—the Huskies are the biggest underdog left, perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament sans Dayton, and they have made it this far riding the back of star point guard Shabazz Napier.

So it's only right that Kevin Ollie's team now has to dance with Florida, the nation's best team that has now won 30 straight games.

Such a scenario is ripe for analysis, especially when things are not all they seem at face value.

 

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Florida's Performance Down Low

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 29: Patric Young #4 of the Florida Gators reacts against the Dayton Flyers during the south regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the FedExForum on March 29, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Leck
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Guards such as Michael Frazier II and Scottie Wilbekin hog most of the headlines, but Florida's ability to continue to win under the rim is a facet most have yet to highlight.

For good reason. The Gators have been dominant on the glass, even in the tournament, where they have out-rebounded three of four opponents by at least seven apiece. Patric Young is a tad undersized for a center, but his dominance on the low block has quietly made Florida's title aspirations easier.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28:  Amida Brimah #35 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts late in the game against the Iowa State Cyclones during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 2014 in New York
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Young will have his hands full on Saturday with Amida Brimah, who stands at 7'0" and will look to clog the lane. Considering he is a key cog in what allowed the Huskies to move past another physical, elite team down low like Michigan State, Young has an unfamiliar task ahead.

He'll have help, and Brimah is by no means an offensive powerhouse (give him two years), but he's a game-altering presence in the paint. Oh, and Florida knows a thing or two about the consequences of missing a rebound attempt against the Huskies.

 

Adaptations From the Last Meeting

STORRS, CT - DECEMBER 02: Ryan Boatright #11 of the Connecticut Huskies drives to the basket in front of Patric Young #4 of the Florida Gators in the second half during the game at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion on December 2, 2013 in Storrs, Connecticut.  (Pho
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

That would be the fatal error the Gators made the last time these two teams met back in December, which also happens to be the last time Florida received a mark in the loss column.

The end result of not grabbing the board in the closing seconds:

While Florida won the battle on the glass by eight and shot 49 percent from the field, it took just one mishap for the outcome to change. Better focus in all areas, including on offense—the Gators turned the ball over 16 times—are mandatory in the rematch.

Especially with UConn being able to take away so much from the meeting, too. Guard Ryan Boatwright explained what the tape reveals, via David Jones of Florida Today:

From that game, I just remember a lot of scrambling on defense. We were helping each other. Coach (Kevin Ollie) showed us the tape before we started winning these games, we got back together, and that tape is crazy. We were everywhere, we were helping each other, we were closing out right and we were rebounding the basketball. So when we go out there and play them, we’ve got to play great defense.

Logic says both teams are better than the last go-round, so whichever squad can best learn from it in the lengthy wait, amid the numerous distractions the Final Four stage brings, will come out better by the final buzzer.

 

Shabazz Napier's Performance

Moreso than any team left standing, the Huskies rely on one player to win games. Napier is far and away the best player left, which is a great thing to have—especially at point guard.

But it's also a major pitfall.

Napier can't afford to have an off night. The Huskies simply wouldn't survive, as others on the roster could not pick up the offensive slack. The other three teams, however, could. Florida has the two aforementioned guards. If Frank Kaminsky falters for Wisconsin, Ben Brust and Co. can come through. Kentucky has a sound NBA prospect at each position.

To be fair, it's not like Napier has had an off night as of late. Paul Pabst of the Dan Patrick Show helps to put this into perspective:

Heck, Napier posted 26 points and the game winner against the Gators last time. Donovan has surely crafted his team's strategy around Napier's game, so how he fares under such scrutiny will ultimately decide the result.

In this regard, UConn is unlike any other team remaining. The risky consequences will be known Saturday night.

 

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