2014 NCAA Tournament
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
#7 Connecticut Huskies vs #1 Florida Gators
Saturday, April 5, 2014, 6:09 pm Eastern, TV: TBS
Opening Line: Florida -7
Current Line: Florida -6 1/2
Opening Total: 125
Current Total: 126 1/2
Opening Money Line: Florida -300 / UConn +250
Current Money Line: Florida -300 / UConn +250
The 36-2 Florida Gators have won 30 straight games to advance to the program’s fifth Final Four. Ironically, the only two losses for the Gators came against teams that also advanced to the Final Four. Florida has early season losses at Wisconsin 59-53 November 12 and at Connecticut 65-64 December 2. The Gators will face the 30-8 Connecticut Huskies in the national semifinal Saturday in Arlington, Texas. The winner will face either Wisconsin or Kentucky in Monday’s national championship game.
The December meeting between Florida and Connecticut was only the second meeting ever between the schools. The Gators beat the Huskies in the 1994 Sweet 16 en route to the program’s first Final Four appearance. The December game was decided on a buzzer beater from UConn All-American guard Shabazz Napier that has been replayed many times this week.
Connecticut went 12-6 in the American Athletic Conference and were part of a 3 way tie for third. The Huskies lost to Louisville 71-61 in the AAC Championship game. UConn was given the #7 seed in the East Region for the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies beat #10 seed St. Joseph’s 89-81 in overtime in the second round and #2 Villanova 77-65 in the third round. Both of those games were in Buffalo. In the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden, Connecticut beat #3 Iowa State 81-76. The Huskies would then beat #4 Michigan State 60-54 in the East Regional Final to advance to the fifth Final Four in program history. Connecticut returns for the Final Four for the first time since winning the 2011 National Championship. UConn has gone 13-3 in their last 16 games.
Florida became the first school to go undefeated in the SEC this season with an 18-0 record. The Gators beat Kentucky 61-60 in the SEC Championship game. Florida was given the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and were placed in the South Region. The Gators beat #16 seed Albany 67-55 in the second round, and #9 Pittsburgh 61-45 in the third round, both in Orlando. In the South Regionals in Memphis, Florida beat #4 UCLA 79-68 in the semifinals and #11 Dayton 62-52 in the regional final. Before this season, Florida had lost in the Elite 8 three straight seasons. The Gators return to the Final Four for the first time since they won back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007.
Connecticut is coached by Kevin Ollie. The Huskies have losses to Stanford, at Houston, SMU twice, Louisville three times, and at Cincinnati. UConn has key wins over Maryland in Brooklyn, Yale, Detroit, Boston University, Boston College and Indiana (both in New York City), Florida, at Washington, Harvard, Central Florida twice, Memphis three times, Temple twice, Rutgers twice, Houston, South Florida twice, and Cincinnati twice. UConn is 21-15 ATS and the total is 13-22 this season.
Connecticut is outscoring teams 72-64 this season. The Huskies are #38 nationally in points allowed. UConn is shooting 44.8% from the field, but are #28 nationally in three point shooting at 38.9% from beyond the arc. The Huskies are #5 in the country in free throw shooting at 77.4% from the line. Connecticut opponents are shooting 39.2% from the field and 33.3% from 3 point range. The Huskies are #13 nationally in field goal defense. UConn averages 35.1 rebounds per game and opponents average 30.4 per game. The Huskies average 12.3 assists, 11.4 turnovers, 7 steals and 5.8 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.6 assists, 13 turnovers, 5.8 steals and 3.2 blocks per game.
UConn guard Shabazz Napier averages 18.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Napier is the AAC player of the year. Forward DeAndre Daniels averages 13 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. Guard Ryan Boatright averages 12 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Guard/forward Niels Giffey averages 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Omar Calhoun, Lasan Kromah, Phillip Nolan, and Amidah Brimah will also get significant minutes in the rotation. Brimah averages 2.3 blocks per game. Little used guard Pat Lenehan is questionable for undisclosed reasons.
Florida is coached by Billy Donovan. The Gators have key wins over Middle Tennessee, Florida State, Kansas, Memphis in New York, Fresno State in Miami, Richmond, South Carolina twice, at Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn twice, Alabama twice, Tennessee 3 times, at Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Missouri twice, Kentucky 3 times, at Ole Miss, at Vanderbilt, and LSU. Florida is 18-15-1 ATS and the total is 11-22-1 this season.
Florida is outscoring teams 70-58 this season. The Gators are #3 nationally in points allowed. Florida is shooting 46.1% from the field and 36.2% from 3 point range. The Gators make 66.7% of their free throws. Gator opponents are shooting 39.9% from the field and 32.8% from 3 point range. Florida is #24 in field goal defense nationally. The Gators average 35.8 rebounds per game and opponents average 27.7 per game. Florida is #27 in rebounds allowed nationally. The Gators average 13.3 assists, 11.1 turnovers, 7.1 steals and 3.1 blocks per game. Opponents average 9.8 assists, 13.5 turnovers, 5.6 steals, and 3.1 blocks per game.
Forward Casey Prather averages 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. Guard Scottie Wilbekin averages 13.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Guard Michael Frazier II averages 12.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Center Patric Young averages 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, a steal, and 1.1 blocks per game to lead the team. Forward Dorian Finney-Smith averages 8.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Guard Kasey Hill averages 5.5 points, 2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Forward Will Yeguete averages 5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1 steal per game. DeVon Walker and Jacob Kurtz will also get time in the rotation. Guard Dillon Graham is out for the season with a hip injury.
Connecticut is 5-0 ATS in non-conference games, 4-0 against teams with winning records, and overall, 13-3 in NCAA Tournament games, 4-1 after a win and a cover, and 25-10 in neutral site games.
Florida is 4-1 ATS in Saturday games, 7-3 after a straight up win and overall, and 20-9 in NCAA Tournament games.
Connecticut has gone on a fantastic run beating Villanova, Iowa State and Michigan State to become the first ever #7 seed to reach the Final Four. Napier is one of the most exciting and dynamic guards in the nation. Still, it is hard to pick against the powerful Gators who haven’t lost since a few days after Thanksgiving. The Huskies beat the Gators earlier this season, but that game was in Storrs. I think the veteran senior laden Gators win a close game to advance to the Championship Monday.