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April 4, 2014

Behind Enemy Lines

UConn takes on top ranked Florida in the Final Four on Saturday night. Bryan Holt of InsideTheGators.com helps UConnReport.com break down the game, and gives us a look at the Gators.

UConnReport: Florida has looked unbeatable this year. Do they have any weakness?

Bryan Holt:
The interesting part of Florida's 30-game win streak has been the amount of teams that leave feeling they were close to being the ones to knock off the Gators. In other words, Billy Donovan's team is dominant in the sheer quantity of its wins this season but it has rarely been dominant on a game-by-game basis. Florida has a tendency to start slow, allow teams to linger and then strike late against a worn-down opponent to create a double-digit final.

A lack of truly independent offensive players creates that trend. It takes serious effort and ball movement for the Gators to put points together. Outside of Scottie Wilbekin, there is not a major contributor on this roster who can create for himself offensively. It's a weakness, but in a way it's a disguised blessing because it forces the Gators to run Donovan's ideal ball movement offense to its smallest details where past Gators teams would cut it off midway through a possession and jack up a shot. Florida's points rarely look easy, but the opponent has to capitalize at the other end to make that matter.

UConnReport: Wilbekin gets a lot of attention from the media and rightfully so. What are the strengths and weaknesses to his game?

Bryan Holt:
Well the strengths heavily outweigh the weaknesses, obviously. I'd argue this is the best point guard play Florida has ever had. Wilbekin is in complete control of the offense and, like all good point guards, is an extension of his coach on the floor. He might be the best on-ball defender in college basketball and the term 'pest' comes to mind when you see him take someone one-on-one. He leaves no space. To top it all off, he has finally earned the respect of his teammates after a rocky past and worked tirelessly on his offensive game to become an effective scorer this offseason. Oh, and he's Florida's most clutch player. Whenever the Gators have needed a big moment all year, Wilbekin has taken over that moment.
His weaknesses? He's not the longest guy at 6-foot-2 so there is the chance to shoot over him. He's not the greatest quote in the world. He lives at home with his parents. That's about all I've got.

UConnReport: Who is the X-Factor on the Gators and why?

Bryan Holt:
There isn't a player more valuable than Wilbekin, and Florida's offense runs best when the backcourt players are finding Patric Young inside. But the Gators are unbeatable when Michael Frazier II is on his game from beyond the arc. He's 10 for 26 so far in the NCAA Tournament but half of those made shots came in a 5-for-8 performance against UCLA. Otherwise, it has been a frustrating tournament overall for Frazier who hasn't found his groove shooting after a rough opening weekend in Orlando.
The scary thing for opponents at the Final Four is it feels like Frazier is due. His slumps never last for long and he has had a knack for hitting key shots in big games all year.

UConnReport: On paper, what do you see as the biggest matchup red flag for the Gators coming into this game?

Bryan Holt:
Perimeter defense has to be a concern. Donovan's defense can be suffocating but it also puts a lot on its players in terms of the space they have to cover when bouncing back outside. I get the question of "what kind of team will it take to defeat Florida" a lot. My answer is always a team that has more than two players who can effectively shoot from distance. UConn obviously has that in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels. If the Gators start slow as they have so many times this year, they can't let the lack of momentum carry over to their perimeter defense.

If the Huskies can get hot, especially early, it will present a serious problem for Florida

UConnReport: Score and reasoning: How do you see this game playing out?

Bryan Holt:
I've watched Florida win 30 games in a row and I truly don't believe there's a better team in the country. There is a hotter team but that team is playing in the late game Saturday night. Napier presents a serious challenge, but Donovan had a week to draw up a solution for him. He has already said it will be a group effort in defending him. Florida wins 72-60.


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