Date: Saturday, April 5
Time: 6:09 pm Eastern
Location: Arlington, TX
Florida has played all of the other Final Four teams and lost to two of them, including UConn.
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #3 Strength: #22
Median play: #10 Median play: #32
Road/Neutral Rank: #4 Road/Neutral Rank: #22
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#3 Sagarin: #20
Pomeroy: #1 Pomeroy: #16
Offense: #18 Offense: #50
Defense: #1 Defense: #10
LRMC: #3* LRMC: #26*
BPI: #1 BPI: #23
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #2 2nd half/season: #10
During NCAAs: #2 During NCAAs: #7
Consistency: #120* Consistency: #307*
Schedule Strength: #35* Schedule Strength: #50*
*LRMC, Consistency, and SOS as of March 16th
To the power ratings the seeding are accurate: Florida is unanimously among the very top teams and UConn is outside the top ten, maybe outside the top 20. The Gators took over #1 in Pomeroy after the first weekend and just became #1 in the BPI. Significantly, they took over #1 in defensive efficiency from Arizona; the Wildcats held that spot since mid-season.
Florida is good enough, and consistent enough, to win six games in a row (they're on their 30th straight win). UConn has been playing above their heads recently and their low consistency suggests that having a third strong weekend isn't too likely.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (12): Kansas+6, =Memphis+2, Tennessee+26, @Tennessee+9, @Kentucky+10, Kentucky+19, =Tennessee+7, =Kentucky+1, Albany+12, Pittsburgh+16, =UCLA+11, =Dayton+10
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (8): Tennessee+26, @Tennessee+9, @Kentucky+10, Kentucky+19, =Tennessee+7, =Kentucky+1, =UCLA+11, =Dayton+10
- Wins vs. Final Four (3): @Kentucky+10, Kentucky+19, =Kentucky+1
- Losses to tournament teams (2): @Wisconsin-6, @Connecticut-1
- Other losses (0): none
Key Info: For an overall #1 seed the Gators didn't beat a lot of tournament teams. If you don't double- or triple-count they beat only four teams that made the Big Dance. One of those was 2-seed Kansas, but that was a 6-point home win. They lost to 2-seed Wisconsin and 7-seed UConn.
But wait, let's revisit that. They beat Kentucky—who is now in the Final Four—three times. Their losses are to Wisconsin and Connecticut—both Final Four teams. So they've played 5 games against the other Final Four teams and their record is 3-2. This is pretty remarkable. Florida might have the chance to avenge both their early-season losses in the Final Four. Again: both the teams that beat them made it to the Final Four, along with a team they beat three times. If the Gators end up winning it all, they have to be mentioned among the most accomplished teams in college basketball history.
They went 18-0 in the SEC and won their tournament, and won 26 straight games to end the regular season. At full strength—not missing Scott Wilbekin or Kasey Hill—they are undefeated. They're also playing very well down the stretch. Casey Prather leads four double-digit scorers at 14.2 per game; Wilbekin is 2nd with 13.0. The Gators are strong on both offense and defense, and have a good shot at a national title.
It took Florida a while to pull away from 16-seed Albany, however. Prather had 16 points as did reserve Dorian Finney-Smith. Against Pitt Wilbekin had 26 points as the Gators cruised. In the Sweet Sixteen UCLA stuck with the Gators most of the way but a 10-0 run put them in front for good; Michael Frazier led with 19. Florida handled Dayton to reach the Final Four; Wilbekin had 23.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (11): Florida+1, Harvard+5, @Memphis+10, Memphis+OT, Cincinnati+6, @Memphis+19, =Cincinnati+2, =St. Joseph's+OT, =Villanova+12, =Iowa St.+5, =Michigan St.+3
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (3): Florida+1, =Iowa St.+5, =Michigan St.+3
- Wins vs. Final Four (1): Florida+1
- Losses to tournament teams (5): Stanford-2, Louisville-12, @Cincinnati-5, @Louisville-33, =Louisville-10
- Other losses (3): @Houston-4, @SMU-9, SMU-9
Key Info: Connecticut had some huge games this year, including beating Florida 65-64. But their highest-rated games on the chart above were beating Detroit by 46, Houston by 37, South Florida by 43, and Memphis by 19. When the Huskies clamp down on you, they don't let up. Beating mostly mediocre teams by wide margins may have inflated their true worth, but during the tournament they've proven their mettle by beating 2-seed Villanova, 3-seed Iowa State, and 4-seed Michigan State—to go with their prior win over 1-seed Florida.
Senior guard Shabazz Napier is the story of the team this year; he averages roughly 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He had 24, 8, and 6 in the overtime victory vs. St. Joe's. He led with 25 against Villanova. In the Sweet Sixteen game against Iowa State DeAndre Daniels was the star, hitting 10 of 15 shots for 27 points. UConn has been nailing their free throws at an uncanny rate during the tournament, and it even bailed them out after a bad 3-point shooting outing vs. Michigan State. The Huskies shot 21 of 22 from the line and Napier had 25 points.
Game Analysis: UConn's 3-point shooting—so hot for the first three games—abandoned them against Michigan State as they made just 5 of 22. But they shot 21 of 22 from the free throw line, putting them at 88% for the tournament. Meanwhile Florida shoots just 67% from the line. If it comes down to "fundamentals"—and when people say fundamentals they almost always mean free throw shooting—then Florida could be in trouble. They've been shooting 74% for the tournament, however.
Florida's defense looks like more than a match for UConn's offense, as long as the Huskies aren't shooting out the lights from the 3-point line. On the other end, UConn's defense is strong enough to give the Florida O a lot of trouble, so the game isn't a foregone conclusion.
And with good reason—UConn beat Florida early in the season, at UConn, by one point, 65-64, on a last-second shot by Napier. But a win's a win. UConn shot 11 of 24 from the 3-point line in that one, something they'll need to repeat or better. Florida outrebounded them in that game and probably will again, as that's a big advantage for the Gators in this matchup.
Florida by 6 1/2
Power rating: spread
Florida by 4.8
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
A bit surprising that Vegas takes the Gators by more than the Strength power rating does. Certainly UConn's recent performance would suggest that it should be tighter, not wider, especially since they beat Michigan State without shooting the three well. And if you lose to a team by 1 on the road, what does that mean for a neutral court? A two or three point win?
Bottom line: UConn was impressive against Michigan State without making their threes. But against Florida they'll have to in order to keep it close enough to win on the free throw line again. But we think they're due for a bad game, and that Florida will avenge their earlier loss.
Final prediction: Florida 63, Connecticut 59
More previews: click here for the full 2014 NCAA tournament schedule.