Different approaches

The two teams that meet in the first national semifinal on Saturday used different offensive paths to make it to this point. For Connecticut, it's the dominant scoring of Shabazz Napier, who can take over a game and carry the Huskies. Florida has reached the Final Four for the first time since 2007 on the back of balanced scoring that has four starters between 10 and 14 points per game.

It's the same pattern most of Billy Donovan's teams end up using. The Gators won back-to-back national championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07 with three future top-10 picks on the roster, but the most any player averaged in those seasons was 14.2 points for Joakim Noah in the first of two title season.

During the second national title season, four Florida starters averaged between 12 and 13.3 points per game.

"I would like to have four-to-six guys in double figures because you don't know what a team is going to try to take away from you," Billy Donovan said. "When a team takes certain things away from you, you still have to be able to have other guys step up in different situations and provide offense."

Florida has seen that plenty of times this season. In the NCAA Tournament, the focus for opposing teams has been to take sophomore guard Michael Frazier out of the game. His three-point shooting has been a difference maker for the Gators, and they usually precede or happen during the middle of a Florida run.

The focus on Frazier has opened lanes for Scottie Wilbekin to penetrate and get to the basket. That's what Donovan is preaching to the team with his emphasis on balance. Even if one player is taken out of the game by the opposition's game plan, it should mean another play has chances to score.

"For the most part, our system is predicated on reading defense," Donovan said. "More so than just say, ‘Hey, listen, we're just going to go at this guy and try to get him 30 shots tonight and hopefully they go in.' I think we try to read defense and see what's open and available."

That's not the case for Connecticut. If senior guard Shabazz Napier has a disappointing game, it's going to be difficult for the Huskies to win. He has played well during the first four games of the NCAA Tournament for the Huskies to lead them to North Texas and has to do that again on Saturday against a stout Florida defense.

Napier's 18.1 points per game leads Connecticut by more than five points, and there's no doubt who will have the ball in their hands when the Huskies need a big basket.

"Shabazz has gets the ball in his hands," Donovan said. "He takes a lot of big shots, makes a lot of big shots, creates a lot for himself and for others."

Napier scored 26 points against the Gators during the first meeting between the teams at Connecticut on December 2. Both teams are drastically different than they were at that point of the season, and the Gators haven't lost a game since that day. The confidence of a veteran Florida team is the difference now.

"These guys understand what goes into playing and competing, they're really good as it relates to scouting report and preparation," Donovan said. "I think they understand how hard they have to play, how well they have to play defensively together, offensively together."


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