TALE OF THE TAPE

Semifinal Matchup: #7 Connecticut Vs. #1 Florida

By Shawn S. Lealos


It was three years ago that Jim Calhoun led the UConn Huskies to the college basketball national championship. That Final Four included two of the teams in this year’s Final Four in UConn and Kentucky, and now both teams shoot for the meeting that never happened in 2011. However, for UConn to make it to the finals in 2014, they have to get past the Florida Gators, the top team left in this year’s March Madness tournament.

#7 Connecticut
#1 Florida
(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)
(credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)
(credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Coaching
No one really knew what they were getting when Kevin Ollie took over for a legend two years ago. Well, what they got was a return trip to the Final Four in 2014. He has his Huskies playing at a high level and it looks like they won’t miss much after Calhoun retired. However, he is still a fresh face and until he wins the big one, he still has to rank below his opposing coach.
Winner Billy Donovan has his Florida Gators in the Final Four for the first time since 2007. Funny thing is that, in 2007, Donovan led his Gators to their second of back-to-back national titles. Since 2006, Donovan has led Florida to the Elite Eight six times in nine seasons, the Final Four three times and won two national titles. He has all the talent in the world to win his third championship this year.
Offense
Winner When the UConn Huskies won the national title in 2011, Shabazz Napier was a freshman. Now, he is the leader of the Huskies team and the best player left in this March Madness tournament. He is the best scorer and can also distribute the ball and rebound as well. He is averaging 20.75 ppg through the March Madness tournament and gives UConn their best chance to win. With DeAndre Daniels, this is a team that can score.
The leader on the Florida Gators team is Scottie Wilbekin, and he matches up well with Napier. This will be the offensive matchup to watch in the Final Four as the two men try to lead their teams on to victory. He averaged 16.75 ppg in the tournament with three rebounds a game. Over the season, Florida ranks lower than UConn for offensive output, but they win with defense.
Defense
The Huskies came in with a fairly solid 38th ranked defense and then shut down the offensive powerhouse Iowa State Cyclones and limited the Michigan State Spartans to only 54 points in that win. The Huskies scored what they needed to win, but they just took over thanks to their defense. In those games, only Iowa State shot over 40 percent against this defense.
Winner In their three March Madness tournament games, Florida out-rebounded their opponents, 115-87, and held their opposition to 39-percent shooting in the three games. Coming into the March Madness college basketball tournament, Florida had the third best defense in the nation and just got better. With 14 blocks and 19 steals in three games, they just dominate in all areas of the D.
Bench Depth
Lasan Kromah is the best bench player—a solid hand who plays offense and defense equally well. However, outside of a double-digit scoring game against Villanova, he hasn’t been a factor in the tournament. Amida Brimah is a big freshman center that does little stat-wise but can disrupt an offense. Terrence Samuel also gets a lot of minutes and actually had two double-digit games in the tournament.
Winner Dorian Finney-Smith plays the same minutes as a star, but does it as the best sixth man remaining in the tournament. He does everything and has averaged six points and seven rebounds in the tournament. Kasey Hill is also there and gets a lot of minutes as a freshman with 15 assists in the March Madness tournament. He will be the leader of the Gators next season.

The Winner Is

(credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Winner #1 Florida
3 out of 4

The Connecticut Huskies are going to be a very good team under Kevin Ollie for a very long time. However, Billy Donovan has his Florida Gators in a place to win it all this year. They are the best team in the tournament, with one of the best defenses in college basketball. They are also deeper than the remaining teams and should win this game by about six before heading on to win the national championship.

Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience in the media He covers all things college basketball. Find his work at Examiner.com.

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