The No. 7 UConn Huskies are looking to beat the No. 1 Florida Gators for the second time this season as the programs duel in Saturday’s Final Four matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
In December, the then No. 12-ranked Huskies beat No. 15 Florida 65-64 off a buzzer beater from senior guard Shabazz Napier, capping his 26-point, four-rebound and three-steal performance.
Since then, the Gators have rolled out 30 consecutive wins, and have been largely uncontested throughout the tournament. They started slow but eliminated No. 16 seed Albany with an eight-point win, blew out Pittsburgh by 16, UCLA by 11, and turned back this year’s tournament darling Dayton by 10 points.
The Huskies could have used the key win over Florida to propel up the rankings, but went 3-3 in their next six games, with a two-point home letdown to Stanford, and back-to-back road losses to Houston and SMU. They later fell to Louisville three times, but the final loss was in the AAC tournament title game.
Four straight tournament wins later, and UConn now better resembles the squad that took down the mighty Gators. Kevin Ollie’s team survived an overtime thriller with No. 10 St. Joseph’s, downed No. 2 seed Villanova by 12 points, blazed past No. 3 Iowa State, and slayed No. 4 Michigan State in the East Region final.
Napier will of course be the key to Huskies extending their season by one more game. Florida also has Scott Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II, but after those stars both teams have several players who could be difference makers.
Players To Watch
Ryan Boatright, G
After Napier, there’s DeAndre Daniels and after him is Boatright. The junior has scored in double-digits in four straight games and has seven steals in the tournament, four of which came against the Spartans in the Elite Eight. Boatright could be especially troubling for Florida’s Wilbekin and Frazier II
Terrence Samuel, G
The freshman came up with 11 clutch points against Villanova, and 10 more against Iowa State off the bench. He was largely unused in the other two games, but Samuel is capable of penetrating and drawing fouls on Florida’s bigs, all while creating space for Napier and Daniels.
Amida Brimah, C; Phillip Nolan, F
Neither big man has been asked to score, but how they fare defensively against Florida’s Patric Young and Dorian Finney-Smith might be the key to the Huskies success.
Dorian Finney-Smith, F
He blew up for 16 points against Albany, and he recorded 10 points and six rebounds against UCLA. Finney-Smith also likely remembers the six turnovers he committed against the Huskies when they last met.
Kasey Hill, G
The freshman is the first guard off of the Gators bench, and should Wilbekin or Frazier get in foul trouble early Hill’s role will make a huge jump. In 28 minutes of relief in the UCLA win, Hill grabbed six rebounds and made 10 assists while only committing two turnovers.
Patric Young, F
His 3-for-11 shooting against Pitt really hurt his overall tournament numbers, but Young has been Florida’s inside presence all season and presents the biggest matchup issue for the Huskies with his brute strength. Young has also stepped up on the defensive end, coming up with four blocks in both the Pitt and Dayton games.
Start Time: Saturday, 6:05 p.m. EST
Betting Odds: The line opened at -7 for Florida and has moved to -6.5 for the Gators
Over/Under: The point total also moved from 124.5 to 126.5.