UCLA v Florida Redux Only Hours Away

In just a few hours, UCLA and Florida meet for the fourth time in the NCAA Tournament since 2006, and it’s about time for the Bruins to turnaround what has become a cruel joke. It’s always the bigger, stronger Gators, the Gators who play shut-down defense, the Gators who just overpower their opponents. Will that happen again tomorrow? Odds are that it will, but we can hope.

Anyone who looks at an upcoming Bruins’ game always talks of the “Kyle Anderson factor”, as if he were Magic Johnson. He’s not Johnson, but he does present problems for most defenses, even those like Florida’s, that hold their opponents to 57.5 points per

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game, who are coming off a 61-45 trouncing of a good Pittsburgh team, and who have held opponents to 61 points or less in 26 of their 36 games this season.

But the SEC Player of the Year, Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin, will be giving up seven inches to Anderson, and that can open up a lot of opportunities for UCLA, perhaps compensating a bit for the athleticism and interior play the Bruins will be giving up on the front line. Another big part of the Gators’ stifling defense is liberal use of the full court press, but where UCLA does have athleticism is among the first string guards, with Anderson, Jordan Adams and

Norman Powell, and if the Bruins can show Florida they can break the press a few times early, it could give UCLA some control over the pace of the game, not to mention a measure of confidence.

One major difference between 2006, 2007 and 2011, and 2014, is the pace and firepower of the Bruins’ offense, with Steve Alford’s team having a decidedly different approach to offense than did Ben Howland. The Bruins are scoring more this season than they have in years and Florida has only scored as many points as the Bruins’ 81.5 per game average in five games this season.

The Bruins have played a few classic offense v defense games over the past few seasons, but under Howland it was always the Bruins doing the defending. UCLA would like nothing more than ending the Gators school record 28-game win streak and make it to the Elite Eight and a matchup against the winner of tomorrow’s Stanford-Dayton game.

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