How Florida can beat UConn

Protecting the ball, keeping Napier off the free throw line are key factors

Updated: April 3, 2014, 11:24 AM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

Ollie/NapierNelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsKevin Ollie and Shabazz Napier led UConn from the No. 7 seed to the Final Four.

You have to tip your cap to Kevin Ollie. In just his second season as head coach of the Connecticut Huskies -- and in his first NCAA tournament -- he has his team positioned 80 minutes away from a national title. Not to mention the first team facing Ollie, the Florida Gators, is one that Connecticut already beat back on Dec. 2.

It's been a remarkable ride, but now Billy Donovan and the Gators are going to try to avenge that earlier loss to the Huskies. Here are a few strategies I can envision Florida using in a quest to reach the national championship game.

Make UConn shoot tough 2-pointers

In American Athletic Conference play, Connecticut was a below-average 2-point-shooting team, and even during this tournament run, Ollie's men have made a solid but hardly sensational 47 percent of their 2s. You don't want to give the opponent open looks from anywhere on the floor, of course, but on the whole you'd rather see UConn try to beat you from inside the arc.

That rule of thumb most especially includes Shabazz Napier, of whom it is often said on Twitter that he is again "doing Shabazz things." That translates as "making 3s," which he has done on 45 percent of his attempts in the tournament. Coincidentally, the senior has also connected on 45 percent of his 2s over his past four games. Other things being equal, you'd rather see Napier recording that percentage inside the arc and not outside it. (I have some more thoughts on guarding Napier below.)

Against the Gators, UConn's biggest scoring threat close to the basket may not be Napier, but rather DeAndre Daniels. Ollie's junior has drained no less than 55 percent of his attempts from inside the arc in the tournament. If you like strength-on-strength collisions, you'll love seeing a 6-foot-9 scorer of Daniels' caliber going up against this outstanding Florida defense.