March has lived up to it’s name, from the start of the tournament to this point has had no shortage of madness. Brackets were busted early and often in this year’s tournament. Of the four teams still standing, only one was largely expected to make it to this point. The Florida Gators haven’t lost since December, they are the only 1 seed left. Wisconsin is another high seed(2), the Badgers have been outstanding this season on their way to 30 wins. The last two teams are 7 and 8 seeds respectively, both of which weren’t expected to get this far outside of their own fan bases. They’ve worked all year to get to this point, who will advance to the Championship game on Monday?
Florida (1) vs Uconn (7)
The Gators are on a 30 game win streak, which is truly remarkable. This is a mentally tough team led by a group of Seniors, the staple of this Florida team is their defense. They really get after it, ranking third in the country in points allowed per game at 57.6. Offensively, they could be better but playing great defense allows them to get out in transition and they thrive. The Gators are able to pressure opposing teams into quick shots and turnovers, while they take very good care of the ball. Scottie Wilbekin is the lifeline of this team, they go as he goes. He’s been amazing for the Gators late in the shot clock, routinely converting in those situations. Patric Young, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete have played key roles for this team. Young is the defensive anchor, while Prather and Yeguete showcase their versatility on both ends of the floor. While Florida is praised for their lock down defense, they have a few snipers amongst their ranks. Prather, Frasier and Wilbekin all shoot well from beyond the arc. The lowest of the bunch is Wilbekin at 39%, preceded by Prather at 40% and Frasier is the most accurate of the group at 44%. The Gators have to accept that Shabazz Napier will get his, they must limit the rest of the Huskies. How they defend the pick & roll will be key, establishing Patric Young in the post will go along way as well.
Florida’s Keys to Victory
- Take care of the ball, keep Uconn out of transition
- Feed the post, put their bigs in foul trouble
- Limit the supporting cast (Daniels, Griffey, Kromah, Brimah)
- Keep Napier, Boatright out of the paint
- Don’t go under screens, defend the pick & roll well
- Rebound, keep Brimah & Daniels off the offensive glass
It’s often said that the NCAA Tournament is all about guard play, the Connecticut Huskies have one of the best duos in the nation in Napier and Boatright. Shabazz had the luxury of playing next to Kemba Walker on the 2011 Title winning team, that experience has helped him lead this team to this point. While Napier deserves all of the credit and attention that goes his way, Uconn is much more than just him. The Huskies plays tough defense, are a terror in transition and can really shoot the three ball. They present a myriad of issues for opposing defenses, Napier and Boatright are great in pick and roll situations and they have a very unique roll man in DeAndre Daniels. Daniels can roll to the basket, pop out for threes, post up or even take his man off the dribble. They have five players shooting 34% or better from deep; Kromah(34%), Boatright at 37%, Napier at 40%, Daniels at 43%, and Giffey is hitting at a clip of 49%. Defensively they pressure ball handlers and funnel drivers towards their shot blockers(Brimah 2.3 blocks per game). Like Florida, they also take very good care of the basketball. It will take a total team effort to beat the Gators for a second time this season, DeAndre Daniels needs to have a big game and Giffey needs to regain his shooting touch.
- Get DeAndre Daniels going
- Pressure Florida’s guards, run them off the three point line
- Set good screens, so Napier & Boatright can run the offense
- Rebound, limit Florida to one shot a possession
- Take care of the ball
Wisconsin (2) vs Kentucky (8)
The Wisconsin Badgers finished second in the Big 10, but they are the last team standing from the Conference after Michigan fell in the Elite 8. The Badgers have one of the toughest players to defend in the nation, in Frank Kaminsky. Not many seven footers boast a solid post game and a deft touch from deep. He’s shooting 37% from beyond the arc and 52% from the floor as a whole. Joining him in the front court is sophomore Sam Dekker, who’s averaging 12 points and six rebounds a game. The Badgers are a very patient offensive team, they often play late into the shot clock to get the shot they want. Kaminsky is surrounded by several outstanding shooters. The Badgers shoot 37% from deep as a team, with John Gasser leading the way at 43%. It’s not all about offense for this team, the Badgers play sound defense as well as they give up 63.7 points a game. Their point differential is very close to 12, Wisconsin takes extremely good care of the basketball. They average just eight turnovers per game, couple that with the methodical offense and opposing teams don’t get many “extra” possessions. If they wish to advance to Monday’s game, they better take care of the glass. It’s imperative that they limit Kentucky’s second chance opportunities, that starts under the rim by boxing out. Not many teams have the athletes to compete with the Wildcats front court. If they can control the tempo on Saturday, Wisconsin may be playing for the National Championship on Monday.
- Help Kaminsky, supporting cast must step up
- Take care of the ball, Kentucky wants to run
- Rebound, try to win the battle on the boards or at least match Kentucky
- Set good screens, must get their shooters open
- Make Kentucky settle for jump shots, keep the ball out of the paint
Year after year, the Kentucky roster changes drastically. They are the only school in the country that truly thrives in the “one and done” era, not only do they recruit the best of the best but they are always very competitive. It took some time, but these Wildcats are one of the best teams in the country. They are fifth in the country when it comes to the glass, they haul in 41 rebounds a game. What they lack in experience they make up for in terms of measurables and athleticism, they have the size and athleticism of an NBA team. No one outside of “Big Blue Nation” anticipated this run, these freshmen beat Witchita St, Louiville, and Michigan to get to this point. Julius Randle is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds, he’s joined up front by Dakari Johnson who’s had to step up due to Willie Caulley-Stine’s injury. On the perimeter they have the Harrison twins and James Young, all of which have hit huge shots in this tournament. That trio has been dangerous from beyond the arc, with the twins shooting 35% from deep while Young is at 34%. None bigger than Andrew Harrison’s game winner over Michigan, this team likes to get out and run. Their other strength, is their ability to pound opposing teams in the paint via Julius Randle. They have also showed the ability to limit teams to just one shot for long stretches, which played a big role in their run through this tournament. If Kentucky wants to take down the Badgers, they must continue to do what got them here. Pound the ball inside and knock down threes, they can’t afford to get away from what they do best with their lack of experience.
- Take care of the ball, Wisconsin doesn’t turn it over much
- Lock down on their shooters, Kaminsky will get his
- Limit them to one shot, create transition opportunities
- Get the ball inside
- Attack Kaminsky on the offensive end