The Connecticut Huskies are one of just two teams to beat the Florida Gators this year. The Gators are ready to flip the script when the two meet in the Final Four on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
On Dec. 2, the Huskies handed the Gators their second and last loss of the season in a thrilling 65-64 win on the strength of a Shabazz Napier buzzer-beater.
If the upcoming game comes down to a final shot again, chances are Napier will hit the dagger. The senior guard is phenomenally clutch, and he's been the best player in this tournament.
It won't be as close this time around, however. Don't let the Dec. 2 meeting fool you into believing otherwise.
CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel does a solid job of explaining why that is:
I'm not here to say the Huskies' 65-64 victory against Florida on Dec. 2 was a fluke, but.... No, wait. That's exactly what I'm saying. The one-point win was a fluke. It was the flukiest fluke that ever did fluke.
Doyel goes on to break down why it was a fluke in a thorough and convincing fashion. Two big things worth mentioning here. The first is that the Huskies hosted that game. It is going to be a far different environment on Saturday. The second is that SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin injured his ankle with just over three minutes left and couldn't finish the game.
As a result, the Gators switched from man to zone, and not only did Napier hit the game-winner, but he also hit a four-point play with less than a minute to go.
Now, none of this means the Huskies couldn't beat the Gators; it means that there is no reason to think they will because they already have.
The below video offers up its own preview and prediction of the game:
According to Doyel, Donovan is making sure his players know they have to play better than they did in the first meeting, and it appears to be working. The national columnist passed along this quote from Florida forward Casey Prather, "If they hit those shots they normally hit, they could have blown us out."
Either way, the Huskies will not be able to stop Florida this time around. The Gators have too much experience and depth.
Although Napier will be the best player on the court, Wilbekin is more than capable of holding his own, and he is more than capable of playing a smart game that leads to his frontcourt dominating.
In the first meeting, Florida center Patric Young finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Young has had a fantastic season, but he had few nights as prolific as that one, as UConn struggled with Florida's physicality.
Florida won the rebounding battle in the first game 34-26 to exploit one of the Huskies' weaknesses in that game, and it will do so again.
Both of these teams play tough defense. This will keep the score down. The Gators will use their physicality to wear down the Huskies and grab crucial rebounds down the stretch to pull out a 64-59 victory.