The Florida Gators and Connecticut Huskies have combined to win four national championships over the past decade. On Saturday in North Texas, the two college basketball superpowers will go head-to-head for the right to play for the title Monday night.
Kevin Ollie's Huskies are one of only two teams to beat the Gators this season. However, Billy Donovan's senior-laden squad has won 30 straight games since losing to Connecticut on a buzzer-beaten back on Dec. 2.
If Saturday's Final Four clash resembles anything close to that game, fans will be in for a treat.
Here, we'll get you set for tipoff with the vital game info and some predictions.
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When: Saturday, April 5, at 6:09 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Spread*: Florida (-6)
*According to Covers.com.
The top-seeded Gators will take the floor as favorites Sunday against the Huskies, and for obvious reason. It's been more than four months since Florida last lost a game and, defensively, few teams have been as dominant as the SEC champions.
Florida is holding NCAA tournament opponents to just 55 points per game this postseason and is capable of blowing the game open at any point thanks to its pressure defense, athleticism and ability to score in transition.
As far as Connecticut possibly having Florida's number, Donovan believes that the Gators' gut-wrenching loss in Storrs will actually benefit them this weekend, per the New York Times' Zach Schonbrun:
I think when you play against a good team and you’ve got to battle and fight it helps you understand how hard you have to fight, battle, persevere.
For the Huskies, it'll all come down to how well Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels perform. Napier and Boatright are almost impossible to stop, but if Florida can find an answer for either Daniels or Boatright and take away Connecticut's third scoring option, the Gators will more than likely be on their way to Monday's championship game.
Napier is likely to poke holes in Florida's defense, as he's averaging 23.3 points and 4.5 assists per game in the tournament. However, if Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin can force Napier to work hard for his points, Florida has the size, depth and athleticism to get the job done.
Florida 65, Connecticut 58
Player of the Game Prediction
As Florida's senior floor general, Wilbekin will have plenty of opportunities to leave his fingerprints on Saturday's national semifinal.
Which senior PG will deliver the better performance on Saturday?
Whether it's with his scoring or defense, the 6'2" guard is sure to make his presence felt throughout. But although he's scored 21 or more points in two of his last three outings, including Florida's Elite Eight win over Dayton, his defense on Napier could be the deciding factor.
Remember, Wilbekin missed the waning moments of Florida's loss at Connecticut back in December after spraining his right ankle. With a healthy Wilbekin on the perimeter for the duration this time around, Napier will likely face some stiff resistance, especially late in the game.
And with Wilbekin playing with immense confidence and poise coming into the weekend, evidenced by his smart decision-making (per ESPN Stats and Info), watch for the SEC Player of the Year to shine yet again Saturday, scoring timely baskets and earning key stops on defense en route to another outstanding performance.
Scottie Wilbekin has not committed a turnover in his last 94 minutes on the court.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
The revenge factor is in Florida's favor this weekend, and the neutral site in Arlington should provide Wilbekin and the Gators with an ideal setting for redemption.
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