The Connecticut Huskies have had a magical run to the Final Four.
They aren’t the lowest seed in remaining, but they have to be considered the most surprising team to make a Final Four appearance. Kentucky is an 8 seed, but they have a team full of talent and it surprised very little that they made the run that they’ve made.
The Huskies are the team of the Final Four that nobody thinks can make it all the way, and that’s just how they like it.
In the first round they met with A-10 Champion and Phil Martelli’s St. Joes Hawks. Many people over looked UConn (who was the higher seed) because there was a potential Holy War (it’s a Philly thing) match up in the second (or third, whatever) round.
They took care of the Hawks in OT, so then it was on to former Big East rival Villanova . Jim Wright’s Wildcats had only lost to three teams all season, and were a popular pick to go deep in the tournament. No problem for Shabazz Napier, who scored 25 (went 9-13 shooting) in the 12-point win.
Next up was Iowa State. This is where UConn will finally meet their match, experts said. Napier hadn’t seen a point guard like DeAndre Kane all season; he’s just too much for Napier to handle. Even if Napier does match Kane, he doesn’t have the help around him to get it done. DeAndre Daniels didn’t agree with that. He had 27 points in 10 boards in the Huskies 81-76 win. UConn, who now had clear help around Napier, continued to surprise people.
But the Huskies were obviously going to meet their match in Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. I mean come on; there hasn’t ever been four year senior under Izzo that hasn’t made it to a Final Four and that wasn’t going to end to a mediocre Connecticut team. I wonder if Napier was thinking about that when he hit three of three free throws with 30 seconds left to all but seal the Huskies trip to the Final Four.
So the head coach Kevin Ollie’s Huskies have beaten the A-10 Champs, the Big East regular season Champs, the Big 12 Champs, and the Big 10 Champs in two weekends. Makes sense as to why Napier is being compared to Kemba Walker, who led Connecticut as a No. 3 seed to the National Title in 2011.
Get what I’m saying? I’ve read many Final Four predictions, all picking the Florida Gators to beat the Huskies in the opening matchup of the Final Four on Saturday.
Florida is a fantastic team and undoubtedly the most consistent teams in this tournament, but have they really been tested? Not taking anything away from them, considering they can only play who’s in front of them, but they haven’t played a ranked team in the tournament.
Pitt was a good team, but they were so inconsistent all season and they showed that in their Round of 32 matchup. UCLA, who the Gators knocked out in the Sweet 16, have losses to Oregon State and Washington State in the past 2 months. Florida got the lucky draw with Cinderella Dayton in the Elite Eight, who they took easy care of.
Florida is good; there is no doubt about that. Scottie Wilbekin has been so good when the game gets too close. They have the most efficient defense in the tournament. There’s a reason they are heavy favorites to win.
But UConn has played the underdog role all tourney. Oh, did I mention that UConn beat Florida earlier in the year thanks to a Shabazz Napier buzzer beater? The Huskies are shooting an insane 88% from the free throw line, a place where champions are made or destroyed (sorry, Memphis).
This is Kevin Ollie’s first Final Four appearance, but the team is 6-1 all time in Final Four games.
This is not a team to count out before the game is played. Napier, in my opinion is the best player in the Final Four, and if he can get the help around him from Daniels, Ryan Boatright, and Niels Giffey,this team could be playing to cut down the nets on April 7th.