The Florida Gators can get to the NCAA Tournament Finals if they do as the oddsmakers have predicted this Saturday by beating the Connecticut Huskies as -6.5 favorites. While Florida isn’t always a great bet against the spread, they’re undoubtedly the best team left in the tournament when you look at the entire picture. Florida is a -120 favorite to win the tournament, which puts them well ahead of the rest of the Final Four.
Of course, before you bet on them to beat the field, you have to hope they can beat the Huskies. Florida hasn’t lost a game since December 2nd which is something that’s been beaten over your head these past few weeks. The team that handed them that particular loss? You guessed it – the UConn Huskies.
NCAA Championship Finals Odds
- Florida Gators -120
- Kentucky Wildcats +280
- Wisconsin Badgers +400
- UConn Huskies +700
The Huskies beat the Gators thanks to a 26-point performance by the one and only Shabazz Napier, who has quickly cemented himself as the best point guard in the country. Napier sunk the game winning shot to beat Florida back in December, so any question that asks how can the Florida Gators get to the NCAA Championship Finals begins and ends with how they defend the dynamic scoring machine from Roxbury, Massachusetts.
That’s a task that will be handed to Scottie Wilbekin, the Gators’ senior point man who is a viscous defender and a cerebral assassin on the floor. Wilbekin has bulldogged opposing floor generals while playing at his apex throughout the tournament. In his last three games, which have included demolitions of Dayton, UCLA and Pittsburgh, Wilbekin has averaged 19.0 points, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals a game. He’s a magnificent creator on both ends, coming up with big plays and huge stops when it matters.
But it’s lunacy to believe that Wilbekin can completely shut down the super charged Napier. Fortunately, the Florida Gators can still get to the NCAA Championship Finals if Shabazz erupts against Scottie.
The Gators are far more than their point guard. He’s merely the pace setter. This team is actually anchored around Patric Young, a physical tour de force that anchors a disciplined and hard nosed front court. Florida beats up opponents routinely down under and have athletic wings and forwards that can help shut down their opponents. This is the same front court that has beaten big dogs from Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and many others.
Young has led a defense that frankly doesn’t need to rebound all that much because they rarely miss shots. Billy Donovan has engineered an insanely efficient offence that is built around high percentage opportunities, which includes a transition element that is virtually impossible to stop considering how well Florida executes it. They bury teams with a fast and furious offence, while suffocating you defensively.
As much as I love Florida’s offence, it’s their defense that wins games. The Gators ranked third with just 57.6 points against per game this year, and limit the effectiveness of their opponents in terms of allowing offensive rebounds. They also have allowed a staggeringly low opponent field goal percentage, forcing a 39.9 percent rate. Florida’s unconditional faith in their defensive abilities gives them patient poise in heated battles. These guys never crack.
There’s always going to be reasons to bet against the favorite. Napier is the type of player that storms defenses and gives you headaches. Beyond that, if Julius Randle and these Wildcats have legitimately arrived, then Florida will be sweating an SEC Championship rematch. And Frank Kaminsky is a big x-factor for the Wisconsin Badgers, who have an arsenal of perimeter scorers that can stretch out Florida’s defense.
But we’ve been here before. Doubting Florida’s ability to win games is silly. Sure, you can be pessimistic about their chances of covering, but they’ve routinely come through in the biggest moments of their season and have never seemed fazed no matter what their opponents attempt to do. They’re certainly beatable, but they’ve also firmly established themselves as a defiant championship contender that refuses to give up games. That’s How the Florida Gators can get to the NCAA Championship Finals – by doing what they’ve been doing all season.