How Florida and UConn were built into Final Four teams

Jamie Squire

Billy Donovan and Kevin Ollie went about reaching the Final Four in different ways.

Recruiting is the name of the game in college basketball. Unless coaches can routinely attract top-100 talent to their programs, it's going to be tough to stay nationally relevant for long.

When you look at Florida's Billy Donovan and Connecticut's Kevin Ollie, it's hard to not be impressed. The jobs they have done in guiding their teams to the Final Four this season have been remarkable, yet they have done it under completely different circumstances. Here is a look at how these teams' rosters came together.


Looking at the Gators' roster, it's hard to not be impressed with what Donovan has done over the last 15 years. Any team that starts four seniors is going to be an extremely tough out in March, and it's no coincidence Florida was the top overall seed in this year's big dance with the amount of talent on the roster. It's a testament to Donovan that he is able to get former top-100 guys to buy into his system and pay their dues on the bench before seeing immediate playing time.

Take leading scorer Casey Prather, who was listed as a top-100 prospect and four-star talent on every scouting service, rated as high as 35th nationally by ESPN. He averaged less than 10 minutes a game his first two seasons on campus; in today's basketball world, 90 percent of four-star players who see those kind of minutes at a high-major school transfer. But not Prather, who bought into the system and now averages nearly 28 minutes a night.

But one of the greatest achievements of Donovan's coaching career is developing point guard Scottie Wilbekin the way he has. Wilbekin was a fringe three-star recruit in the 2010 class and didn't exactly have the blue blood schools lining up to sign him, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming the Gators' go-to option when they need a basket most.

Patric Young is the only guy on the roster who has followed the typical formula: a former five-star prospect, he contributed from the minute he stepped on campus and continues to make a huge impact for the Gators.

Donovan hasn't been afraid to bring in players via transfer, either, and it's paid off in a big way with Dorian Finney-Smith. A former top-100 prospect who originally signed on at Virginia Tech, Finney-Smith sat out last year but has come on in a big way as a sophomore as one of the team's top bench options. Some teams in today's college hoops rely far too heavily on transfers to be the answers to all of their problems, but not Donovan and the Gators. They've found a perfect blend and experience and talent, and it should not come as a surprise that they have reached the Final Four.


Due to recent NCAA sanctions and the departure of Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, the Huskies had to reinvent themselves a bit after cutting the nets down as national champions in 2011. But as we've seen over the last two decades, this isn't a program that rebuilds. It reloads.

Shabazz Napier was a fringe top-100 prospect coming out of high school. While many liked what they saw out of the shifty point guard out of Randolph, Mass., there were concerns about his size. Napier was about 5'10 and 160 pounds when he stepped foot on campus as a freshman, and there were concerns if he'd ever be able to handle the physicality of the then-Big East. Clearly he's answered those questions, and it's impressive what coach Kevin Ollie has been able to get out of his senior point guard this season.

DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright joined the Huskies right after their championship run in 2011. While there were some days of uncertainty and instability, both players have carved out roles for themselves. Daniels was a fringe five-star talent out of the IMG Academy in Florida, while Boatright hailed from just outside of Chicago. Unlike some of the Gators' starters, these two stepped in immediately and logged quite a few minutes early on.

The rest of the roster was kind of pieced along as Ollie went. Neither Niels Giffey nor Lasan Kromah, who originally committed to George Washington before transferring as a senior, flew under the radar as recruits. Omar Calhoun has struggled to find regular minutes since a promising freshman campaign in 2012-2013.

This is certainly a top-heavy team led by a couple of terrific talents in Napier, Daniels and Boatrright.

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