Bracket Briefing: Chances for a UConn miracle, top Final Four players 11-30
April 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s bizarre imagining Connecticut as the underdog.
The Huskies earned their way to the Final Four just as the other three teams did, although their path as a No. 7 seed certainly cannot be deemed as easy.
Yet UConn’s odds of winning it all sit at 7/1 — the worst chances of any Final Four team. The Huskies defeated No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the East Region. The last win, against heavily favored Michigan State, was one of the biggest bracket-busters of the entire NCAA tournament.
So why can’t UConn, the program former coach Jim Calhoun built into a powerhouse, defy more odds? When the field of 68 was selected, the team’s odds to win the national title were 100/1. Now they’re two wins away. Plus, they’ve already beaten the team they’re facing Saturday on a last-second buzzer-beater.
Ah, but it’s not that simple. The differences between an early December game and an early April are night-and-day. Florida has rattled off 30 consecutive victories and has every element on paper that spells doom for the Huskies.
The Big Dance is about surprises and as surprising as Mercer and Dayton were, UConn in the Final Four might be the No. 1 stunner. Predicting this team to win it all is almost ludicrous. It’s somewhat similar to 1999 when UConn beat the favorite, Duke. No one had those Huskies winning.
That scene in Dumb & Dumber when Mary Swanson tells Lloyd Christmas he’s got “one out of a million” chances with her and he responds with, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Yeah, well whatever the odds are for UConn, they’ve still got that chance.
Here are six ways the Huskies can pull off a miracle.
- 1. Shabazz Napier. Florida is deeper, more experienced and on paper a better team. But the Gators’ best player, SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin, is no Shabazz Napier, who has been the best player in the tournament. His takeover abilities give UConn a shot undoubtedly.
- Play smart, control the tempo. Florida’s defense has a way of stagnating opponents’ offenses, and Billy Donovan will throw an array of defenses at you, including a 1-3-1 zone. It’s important to not get flustered. That is a doable task with veteran guards, Napier being one and Ryan Boatright being the other.
- Defend the three. Florida’s double-digit wins all have a key ingredient. Either Scottie Wilbekin or Michael Frazier II are hitting clutch baskets from beyond the arc. If the Huskies can defend those, it’s sure to be a close game.
- Hunger factor. The Huskies didn’t play in the NCAA tournament last year because they were ineligible due to a low APR score. That seems to have been a driving force for this team in 2014’s tournament.
- They’ve already beaten Florida. We’re talking about two completely different teams since December. But there’s a confidence factor that comes with a victory, and most teams didn’t have that against the Gators.
- They’ve got nothing to lose. Second-year coach Kevin Ollie has already exceeded expectations — positioning UConn to win its second title in four years. And when you’re a team that’s the clear-cut underdog there’s a natural looseness. It allows teams to play their best brand of basketball.
MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS 11-30: On Tuesday we listed the 10 most important players left in the Final Four. You know, the stars who really, really matter for a team’s title chances. Well 10 didn’t seem like enough, especially considering the impact that players such as Spike Albrecht and Luke Hancock had in last year’s Final Four. Who saw that coming? So without further ado, here’s all 30.
- Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
- Shabazz Napier, UConn
- Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
- Patric Young, Florida
- Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
- Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
- Julius Randle, Kentucky
- Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
- DeAndre Daniels, UConn
- Dakari Johnson, Kentucky
- Marcus Lee, Kentucky
- James Young, Kentucky
- Casey Prather, Florida
- Ryan Boatright, UConn
- Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin
- Ben Brust, Wisconsin
- Michael Frazier II, Florida
- Alex Poythress, Kentucky
- Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
- Niels Giffey, UConn
- Josh Gasser, Wisconsin
- Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
- Will Yeguete, Florida
- Kasey Hill, Florida
- Omar Calhoun, UConn
- Chris Walker, Florida
- Jarrod Polson, Kentucky
- Dominique Hawkins, Kentucky
- Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin
- Lasan Kromah, UConn