The Florida Gators may be the favorite at this year’s Final Four, and they may be the most talented team still alive, but their opponent in the Final Four, the Connecticut Huskies, enter the Final Four better prepared for the big stage and the high level of competition that comes with a Final Four appearance.
Of course, Florida hasn’t lost a game since the last time they faced Connecticut back in December, winning 30 in a row. But through no fault of their own, the Gators haven’t faced a particularly tough schedule since that loss to Connecticut, and so the level of competition they’ll face in the Final Four will be a much bigger jump than those of the other three teams, especially Connecticut.
Outside of three games against a young but talented Kentucky team, Florida didn’t face too many teams during conference play that could challenge them if the Gators played anywhere close to their potential. During the NCAA tournament, Florida has played a 16 seed in Albany, a tough but clearly outmatched Pittsburgh team, a talented UCLA team that didn’t have the experience to go deeper than the Sweet 16, and an overachieving Dayton team.
As impressive as Florida’s record is, it’s a bit exaggerated based on the schedule they’ve played, and they haven’t been forced to play at their best on many occasions this season. They haven’t been challenged to play at a championship level during the tournament, and being forced to do that for the first time at the Final Four could be too late.
Meanwhile, since beating Florida, Connecticut has played 11 games against NCAA tournament teams, not including the four games the Huskies have won since the tournament started. On its path to the Final Four, Connecticut survived an overtime game against a tough St. Joseph’s team and then proceeded to beat a No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed, with each game being more challenging than the last one.
The Huskies have risen to the occasion when they’ve had to and always found a way to survive and advance, with its most impressive win being its most recent against Michigan State, a pre-tournament favorite of many. After taking down the Spartans, Connecticut is undoubtedly at its peak and ready to take on anybody, something that can’t be said with complete certainty about Florida. Heading into the Final Four, the Huskies and better prepared than the Gators.
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