No. 1 Florida Gators vs. No. 7 Connecticut Huskies
Record: 36-2 Conference: SEC
NCAA Tournament history: 39-14; champion 2006, 2007
Record: 30-8 Conference: American Athletic
NCAA Tournament history: 56-29; champion 1999, 2004, 2011
Florida's starting five
Connecticut's starting five
The Gators are 1-0 against Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament (69-60 in overtime in 1994). Most recently, UConn beat Florida 65-64 on a buzzer-beater by Shabazz Napier on Dec. 2.
The marquee matchup might be the guards, but the frontcourt might be where the game's outcome rests. In the teams' previous meeting this season, UF center Patric Young's play in the paint caused the Huskies problems, particularly down the stretch. Young (above left, being hugged from behind by Will Yeguete) had 17 points and seven rebounds, and the Gators outrebounded UConn 34-26. But it was a missed rebound that led to a second shot before the buzzer for UConn. If Young can dominate inside and Yeguete and Dorian Finney-Smith can help on the glass and help the guards on defense, the edge goes to Florida.
This may be the most anticipated duel: UF senior Scottie Wilbekin, the SEC player of the year, versus UConn senior Shabazz Napier, the American Athletic Conference player of the year. Wilbekin is a staunch defender who can take over a game in the clutch and isn't afraid to take tough shots. He can drive to the rim or hit from outside. Napier can do the same and is a serious 3-point threat. But he also can hit the pull-up jumper, which makes him difficult to defend. UConn's Ryan Boatright (above right) and Florida's Michael Frazier are also scoring threats, and the Gators can counter with freshman Kasey Hill, which allows them to rest Wilbekin throughout so he's fresh down the stretch.
Florida uses five players off the bench, including SEC sixth man of the year Dorian Finney-Smith. In their previous meeting this season, the Huskies' bench outscored Florida's 12-3, but the Gators were depleted and without Kasey Hill and Chris Walker. The Huskies' bench has outscored opponents in all four of its NCAA Tournament games.
Antonya English, Times staff writer