Florida vs. UConn: Vital Game Info, Predictions for 2014 Final Four Clash

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IApril 5, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28:  Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer in the first half 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 City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

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.


All Your Bracket Essentials


When: Saturday, April 5, at 6:09 p.m. ET

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Watch: TBS

Live Stream: March Madness Live

Spread*: Florida (-6)

*According to Covers.com.


Game Prediction

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.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30:  Ryan Boatright #11 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after a turnover by the Michigan State Spartans in the second half of the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30,
Elsa/Getty Images

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

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 29:  Scottie Wilbekin #5 of the Florida Gators celebrates after hitting a three pointer to end the first half against the Dayton Flyers during the south regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the FedExForum on M
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As Florida's senior floor general, Wilbekin will have plenty of opportunities to leave his fingerprints on Saturday's national semifinal. 

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. 

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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