DALLAS (CBSMiami) – The Florida Gators have lost two games this season, one to Wisconsin (November 12) and the other to Connecticut (December 2). That makes it fitting that if the Gators want to win another national championship, they may have to beat both teams.
The Gators play UConn on Saturday in the national semifinals. If Florida wins, it will play the winner of the second semifinal between Kentucky and Wisconsin.
If revenge is a factor, the Gators will likely be cheering for Wisconsin. The Gators also beat Kentucky three times this season, giving the team a familiarity with all of the opponents.
“It definitely helps,” UF head coach Billy Donovan said. “It helps both teams. There will be a familiarity there because they’ve been on the floor with those guys. It gives you at least a reference point of what you’re dealing with there.”
The last time UF tasted defeat at the hands of UConn, it wasn’t by much. It took a wild sequence, a possible travel, a lucky rebound, and a buzzer-beating shot to knock off the short-handed Gators that night.
“The game was such a long time ago. It feels like it was forever,” Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin said.
The Gators team the Huskies will see on Saturday is much different. UF has mowed down every opponent since that game last December, including a perfect trip through the SEC regular season and tournament schedule.
Florida is the best defensive team in the country, allowing just 88.5 points per 100 possessions, according to analytics from KenPom.com. With a full squad at his disposal, head coach Billy Donovan can unleash a swarming defense that wears its opponents out by the end of the game.
The Gators haven’t blown teams out in the tournament, but the team hasn’t had to do it as it simply keeps coming at teams for all 40 minutes of the game.
Florida is also just the third team in NCAA tournament history to win four games by double-digits and hold opponents under 70 points per game on the way to the Final Four in Dallas. Gator opponents have averaged just 55 points per game during UF’s tournament run this year.
“We just take so much pride into being able to disrupt the team and being able to lock down guys,” Florida forward Patric Young.
Florida is the number one overall seed in the tournament and if you believe in the mantra “defense wins championships,” if you have the Gators winning it all in your bracket, it might turn out to be a great pick.