Florida vs. UConn: Why Scottie Wilbekin Has the Upper Hand over Shabazz Napier

Tyler HornerCorrespondent IIApril 4, 2014

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22:  Scottie Wilbekin #5 of the Florida Gators reacts in the second half while taking on the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 22, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Saturday's Final Four matchup pits the two best players remaining in the tournament against each other, and fortunately for viewers, they play the same position.

Point guards Scottie Wilbekin (Florida) and Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) will battle it out in what's sure to be a close, defensive struggle.

Both players average more than 34 minutes per game, so we'll see plenty of one-on-one action between the two stars, although Wilbekin does spend significant minutes at the 2 when freshman Kasey Hill subs in at the point.

At a glance, the statistics will tell you Napier should have the edge over his opponent, but the deeper you dig, the better the case becomes for Wilbekin.

UConn's Shabazz Napier
UConn's Shabazz NapierJared Wickerham/Getty Images

While Napier is scoring 23.3 points per game in the tournament compared to Wilbekin's 16.8, he has been the less efficient offensive player.

Because Napier is his team's only primary scoring option, he spends a lot of time with the ball in his hands, trying to create offense for himself or a teammate. This has led to a turnover problem that is overshadowing his cool 1.55 points per shot.

Over Connecticut's four tournament games, Napier is averaging 4.3 turnovers per 40 minutes on the court compared to 3.1 before the tournament.

That is a 40 percent increase in turnovers and rather alarming considering his increase in scoring production during this time period is only 30 percenta notable scoring increase in most cases, but for Napier, this statistic shows he is being overused and needs his teammates to shoulder more of the offensive load.

Wilbekin has been sure-handed with the ball all season.
Wilbekin has been sure-handed with the ball all season.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On the other side, Wilbekin has turned the ball over just twice during the entire tournament for a rate of .57 turnovers per 40 minutes. He has also brought his shooting percentage up from 40 percent before the tournament to 47 percent during the past four games.

The difference in ball security between the two guards will be key in what should be a slow-paced game, as both teams prefer a relaxed tempo and stretched-out possessions.

Florida's ability to stretch out possessions defensively will only exacerbate Napier's turnover problems, as he will often find himself trying to create a shot with little time remaining on the shot clock.

Napier is one of the nation's best free throw shooters.
Napier is one of the nation's best free throw shooters.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

When faced with expiring shot clocks, Napier's bailout all season has been his ability to draw contact and get to the free-throw line, where he drains 87 percent of his attempts.

However, Wilbekin's tactful defending will neutralize this skill of Napier's; Wilbekin is averaging less than two fouls per 40 minutes over the season, and that number has dropped to 1.1 during the tournament.

The last time these teams faced, Napier stole victory from the Gators with a last-second shot while Wilbekin was on the bench. This time, look for Wilbekin, who has carried his team out of impending danger in the waning minutes of tournament games against Dayton and UCLA, to remain on the court until the clock strikes zero and lead his team to a national title game.