Sweet 16 Preview and Picks: Florida Gators vs. UCLA Bruins

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Florida's defense vs. UCLA's offense sets up exciting regional matchup

Sweet 16 Preview and Picks: Florida Gators vs. UCLA Bruins

Florida and UCLA are as familiar as two teams from opposite ends as the the country can be.

The Gators and Bruins will meet in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time since 2006, each at a different stage. Florida defeated UCLA in the 2006 title game, the 2007 Final Four and the 2011 round of 32. Moreover, Florida and UCLA could have met again in the round of 32 had the Bruins defeated Minnesota in Ben Howland’s last game.

This Sweet 16 matchup will be different, perhaps, from the other three, primarily due to a coaching change on the other bench.

Steve Alford took over for Howland this season and has brought the Bruins to their first regional semifinal since 2008. The biggest difference will be UCLA’s offensive approach as the Bruins excel at grabbing quick baskets in transition. The matchup may be the toughest defensively for Florida since non-conference play.

“The name on the jersey happens to be the same one that we've maybe played three different times in the NCAA Tournament, but everything else is really a lot different,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don't think the last time we played UCLA in the NCAA Tournament any of our guys were even on that team.”

Florida vs. UCLA
Time: 9:30 p.m.
TV: CBS
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
Region: South (Memphis)

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Florida 62-59
Braden Gall: Florida 75-53
Mitch Light: Florida 78-67
Nathan Rush: Florida 68-60
How Florida got here:
The Gators responded to a sluggish game against No. 16 seed Albany with a 61-45 thumping of Pittsburgh in the round of 32.

How UCLA got here:
The Bruins are one of the least turnover-prone teams in the country and proved it against Stephen F. Austin with only three giveaways (compared to 22 assists on 29 field goals). Kyle Anderson is UCLA’s MVP, but Jordan Adams has been on a hot streak. After missing the NCAA Tournament last season, Adams has averaged 19.7 points per game going back to the Pac-12 final against Arizona.

Other Sweet 16 previews:
Stanford-Dayton | Wisconsin-Baylor | Arizona-San Diego State

Key for Florida to get to the Elite Eight: Solve the matchup with Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams
Florida is one of the top defensive teams in the country, but they’ll have two tough matchups against Kyle Anderson and Adams leading an explosive UCLA offense. Anderson is a 6-9 guard starts UCLA on the fast break while averaging 8.7 rebounds. Adams is another big guard at 6-5, 220 pounds

Key for UCLA to get to the Elite Eight: Beat Florida in transition
If there’s a spot where UCLA matches Florida strength for strength on offense, it’s the Bruins’ game in transition. UCLA is one of the best teams in the country in scoring out of the fast break while Florida is adept at making teams work for their shot. Transition baskets could be the equalizer for UCLA.

Player to watch: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
Wilbekin is embracing his role as Florida’s go-to player. He scored 21 points against Pittsburgh, with no one else scoring more than 10. That’s a rarity for this balanced Florida team. UCLA was below average defensively in Pac-12 play.
 

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