Donovan realizes UConn not a one-man team
Updated 11:30 pm, Friday, April 4, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas -- One on five? It will not be the case when the UConn Huskies and Florida Gators tip off Saturday night in the Final Four, but it sure seems that way.
The Gators (36-2) arrived at AT&T Stadium billed as a complete team that has ridden a 30-game winning streak into the Final Four and is expected to emerge from their rematch with the Huskies (30-8) to play in the their first national championship since 2007.
"Well, Shabazz is a great player and he gets a lot of attention and rightfully so," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose team last lost on Dec. 2 to UConn 65-64 at Gampel Pavilion. "But I think I said yesterday (Thursday) that it's not just a one-man team."
Not at all.
Napier might be the name on the back of No. 13's jersey, but the name UConn on the front of the uniform has found tournament success relying on much more. It could be Ryan Boatright's defense, DeAndre Daniels' 3-pointers or Niels Giffey's hustle.
Or how about freshman Amida Brimah's three-point play against Saint Joe's that led to overtime, or freshman Terrence Samuel stepping off the bench against Villanova with Napier in foul trouble?
Napier hit the game-winning, buzzer-beater shot to hand Florida that last loss but the Huskies have needed more than one player to reach their fifth Final Four.
"I just want to be at the Final Four, I don't care how I get here," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "It could be Ryan playing good, Bazz playing good. I think we have a complete team, too.
"I think you can't get here by one player."
Florida's success has been powered by four seniors and sophomore Michael Frazier II, with four of those players scoring in double figures. But no one on the roster has played for a national championship like Napier, Giffey and Tyler Olander did in 2011. The Gators had been stuck in the Elite Eight the last three seasons before finally breaking through with a 62-52 win over Dayton.
In the first meeting with UConn, the Gators also were not operating on full strength with two freshmen, guard Kasey Hill and 6-foot-10 forward Chris Walker, out of the lineup. The return of Hill from injury and paired with senior Scottie Wilbekin (13.4 ppg, 3.7 apg) gives Florida a comparable backcourt to UConn's duo of Boatright and Napier.
"Kasey, with his speed, his ability to make plays (is a problem)," Ollie said. "Scottie does the same thing, but gives them an opportunity, kind of like us where we can play two point guards at the same time. They didn't have that option when they played us the last time."
The Huskies have changed as well, with Samuel playing a more prominent role than earlier in the season when the team goes to three guards and Daniels being a much more confident player since tournament time.
"It definitely gives you confidence to know you can beat this team, but it's been a while and both teams (are different)," Giffey said. "It's going to be a whole different game. ¦ We're not going to approach this like this is a team we've already beat. It's just a Final Four game for us."