Eight years ago, Florida defeated UCLA to win the national championship. In the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the schools will meet again on the hardwood, with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line.
No.1 Florida enters the Sweet 16 matchup as the top overall seed in March Madness. UCLA is having its best season since it last reached the Final Four in 2008.
The two teams will do battle at the FedExForum in Memphis on Thursday night.
The Gators have been the best team in college basketball for the 2013-2014 season. While they have been proficient on the offensive end, defense is Florida where the team excels. They rank third in the nation, allowing 57.5 points per game. Head coach Billy Donovan’s group has not let up in the tournament, surrendering just 100 total points in the opening weekend. Florida prefers to play in a low-scoring affair.
"If the game's in the 50s, that's probably not favoring UCLA," Bruins head coach Steve Alford said. "We need the thing to be a little bit more up-tempo than that."
The Bruins play a much different brand of basketball than their Sweet Sixteen opponent. Only eight teams score more than UCLA, who averages 81.5 points per game. Since Feb. 2, the No.4 seed has failed to reach the 70-point mark just once. They’ve done so, with versatile players on offense, who share the ball. At 6’9, Kyle Anderson is also the Pac-12’s assist leader.
"They're a unique basketball team," Florida forward Casey Prather said. "They have guards that post up and bigs who can shoot. They do a great job in transition. They're very good on offense so we've just got to do a good job of meeting the challenge."
After being heavily favored in their first two tournament games, UCLA is the underdog on Thursday. The Gators are giving the Bruins 4.5 points. With a defensive stalwart looking to stop an offensive juggernaut, the over/under is 138 points.
UCLA covered both betting lines last weekend, giving them a 23-12 record against the spread. Despite Florida’s 28-game winning streak, they are just three games over .500 against the spread. Since the odds opened, the line has moved one point, in favor of the underdog.
TV and Online Info
Florida vs. UCLA is the second game in Thursday’s South Regional session. It’s scheduled to tip off at 9:45 p.m. ET, though it will be pushed if the Stanford-Dayton matchup goes longer than anticipated. CBS will broadcast the contest on TV, and viewers can watch a free live stream with March Madness Live.