ARLINGTON, Texas -- Finally, the games are almost here. After 48 games in a four-day span over the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and then a terrific second weekend, we've had to wait almost a week since the last game. And it has felt like forever. Thankfully, we're only 24 hours away from some more action. Let's break it down.
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 Connecticut (6:09 p.m., TBS)
Florida's offense vs. Connecticut's defense: The first key here starts on the other end, where Connecticut can't turn it over and allow Florida to get out in transition and finish on the fast break. When the Gators can get easy baskets and set up their pressure, it's a tough task. In a half-court setting, the big key will be Michael Frazier's ability to knock down shots. He's one of the best 3-point shooters in the country and allows the Gators to spread the floor and stretch the defense. Connecticut can't let him get going. When Florida is allowed to make open shots, it's nearly impossible to beat the Gators. Shabazz Napier or Ryan Boatright is going to be tasked with guarding Scottie Wilbekin, and the important part will be stifling him late in the shot clock and late in the game. Down low, Philip Nolan and DeAndre Daniels once again have to be physical and effective on the inside. They did a good job against Michigan State's Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne, but Florida's Patric Young and Co. are another tough task. UConn has to keep them off the offensive glass.
Connecticut's offense vs. Florida's defense: UConn's offense starts with Shabazz Napier -- and he's obviously must have another monster day on the offensive end. Napier is averaging 23.3 points in the NCAA Tournament and has been carrying the Huskies. He will need to go off once again. Wilbekin is one of the best defensive guards in the country, and he does have the ability to slow down Napier. Moreover, when Napier gets into the lane, we will have to see how he finishes consistently against Florida's physicality and length inside. DeAndre Daniels is another key for UConn. He's a tough matchup, but he has to have his offensive game going. He gives the Huskies another consistent weapon when he's making shots, and he's not an easy matchup for Will Yeguete or Dorian Finney-Smith. Florida will get into the driving lanes and gaps, and make Connecticut hit shots from the perimeter -- the Huskies will obviously have to be hot from outside. They're one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, and have four guys on the court that can make shots.
Wisconsin's offense vs. Kentucky's defense: This will be very intriguing. Kentucky does a good job of protecting the rim when Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle are on the court, but Cauley-Stein is injured and unlikely to play. Dakari Johnson doesn't offer the same intimidating factor at the rim -- he will have to come up big. Can Johnson guard Frank Kaminsky, though? Kaminsky is an inside-outside threat who has shown the ability to step outside and knock down perimeter shots consistently, while also possessing solid low-post moves that lead to finishes at the rim. Johnson has to be up to the task of defending him all over the court. Wisconsin won't turn the ball over, meaning Kentucky has to be patient against the inverted offense of the Badgers. They will spread the floor with shooters, and Kentucky can't overextend or make mistakes. Wisconsin makes teams pay because of its ability to make shots from the perimeter. Kentucky has struggled a bit in the past with guards who can penetrate off the bounce; Wisconsin isn't loaded with that sort of player, but guys like Kaminsky and Sam Dekker create matchup issues, and Ben Brust and Josh Gasser are snipers. Kentucky has to be aware.
Kentucky's offense vs. Wisconsin's defense: There is a lot of "something has to give" on this end of the floor. Kentucky is the nation's best offensive rebounding team, while Wisconsin ranks among the top 15 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Meanwhile, Kentucky gets to the foul line as much as any team in the country -- and Wisconsin simply never fouls. Like I said, something has to give. Kentucky isn't the same team attacking the glass without Cauley-Stein, but Johnson's physicality and strength could cause issues for Kaminsky. Moreover, Dekker has to be solid down low against Julius Randle. Randle isn't opposed to just putting his head down and overpowering guys on the block -- Dekker has to play tough and physical. Nigel Hayes could also play a huge role on the defensive end because of his strength. Kentucky will look to attack off the bounce, but Wisconsin's pack-line defense limits the gaps and driving lanes. If the Wildcats are able to get to the rim and draw contact consistently, it will be a long day for Kentucky. If the Wildcats are forced to take contested shots from the perimeter, Wisconsin will take that all night. Can Kentucky make shots?