With a player as good as Napier playing this well, it's tempting to throw the scouting report out the window. UConn's star has averaged 23.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals through four tournament games -- numbers that compare favorably to Kemba Walker's legendary 2011 title run. Since the 1985-86 season, when steals became an official statistic, who are the only other players to have at least 90 points, 20 rebounds, 15 assists and 5 steals in the first four games of the NCAA tournament? Walker in 2011, Dwyane Wade in 2003 and Kenny Anderson in 1990. Yeah. He has been that good.
And yet, it's not quite tempting enough. Florida guards so well it can match up with anyone ... but the Gators feel especially suited to guarding the long, perimeter-oriented Huskies. Connecticut spaces the floor and gets into the lane, and shoots the ball well on kickouts. But the Huskies don't grab their own misses, and they need to create mismatches on screens to get into their stuff in the first place. Florida offers no such mismatches. When you combine Wilbekin's one-on-one defense with the Gators' ability to close off pick-and-roll plays as a group, Florida looks like the obvious pick.
Unless, of course Napier goes crazy. In that case, forget everything you just read.
Background: "Death. Taxes. And Bo Ryan." That's the clichéd tweet (tweet-ché?) that rings out from all corners every time Wisconsin notches a big win, and for whatever it lacks in creativity at this point, at least it has the benefit of being true. No coach in the past decade has been more reliable, or more consistent, than Ryan. He became the Badgers head coach in 2002, after 15 hyper-successful years at D-III Wisconsin-Platteville and a brief stop at Milwaukee, and has never won fewer than 19 games, never finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten, and never missed the NCAA tournament in 13 seasons. He has occasionally heard questions about his teams' performance on the high end -- he hasn't won a Big Ten regular-season title since 2007-08, and this is his first Final Four -- but man, do you ever know what you're going to get.
System: From 1976 to 1984, as a Wisconsin assistant, Ryan spent approximately all of his time buried in tape, scouting opposing offenses, analyzing what worked and what didn't. By the time he arrived at Platteville in 1984, he emerged with a fully formed offensive system -- one that siphoned off all of his favorite pieces of various motion systems and discarded the superfluous. "I blended these parts together not because I thought they were innovative or the answer to every defensive wrinkle, but because I really believe in them," Ryan once wrote. "The swing offense is basic and relies on solid fundamentals: cutting, screening, spacing and passing."
Ryan's system, in short, spaces his players in a four-out, one-in configuration, with two players on the weak side and a post-wing-high triangle on the ball. The ball moves from side-to-side. Back cuts lead to down screens, which lead to baseline cuts. Every player in Ryan's system posts up, and every player plays on the perimeter, so every forward must have guard skills, and guards must play big. The defense becomes inverted. Post-ups become practice. Matchup woes abound. Rinse, repeat.