Both of these teams cruised through their first two Games without much trouble. While that is the case, not many are giving much thought to UCLA here as the 4-seed. Florida hasn’t lost since Dec. 2 and people don’t think Florida is going to have a test until the Final 4. Even so, the Gators are just -4.5 point favorites, which isn’t all that much.
Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the Tournament and arguably has the most complete team in the nation. They’ve only lost two Games all season for a reason. They didn’t blow out Albany in the first Game, but completely showed their muscle in the Pittsburgh Game, winning 61-45. They only shot 4-of-20 from the three-point line, but dominated every other part of the Game.
Technically, UCLA has probably had an easier route having to beat a 13 and 12 seed to earn their current spot. They haven’t really had much trouble winning both Games by 17 points. Florida is known for their balance and being a complete team, but don’t forget about the Bruins. There’s no reason they can’t put up a fight in this one. UCLA has won five straight neutral site Games with two of those coming against teams in the Sweet 16, Stanford and Arizona.
The most difficult thing to deal with when playing UCLA is the guard spot where Kyle Anderson runs the show at 6-9. His height is an extreme matchup problem that isn’t easy to figure out and that’s why he’s averaging 14.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 6.6 APG. Joining him are Jordan Adams and Normal Powell, and both have looked great so far in Tournament play. Those three will be matched up with SCottie Wilbekin, Michael Frazier II and Casey Prather.
The Gators have experience on their squad at every position which could come into play, especially this weekend after losing in the Elite 8 last year. Wilbekin runs the show and is the main person UCLA has to worry about, but Frazier is their sharpshooter and Prather is their leading scorer. That’s exactly what is meant by balance. On the other end, the Bruins may not have as good of shooters, but they have as good of players, albeit with a little less experience. All three of their guards can make plays by themselves which will be crucial against the Gators defense.
The matchup down low goes slightly to the Gators with Patric Young leading the way. If UCLA keeps their same starting lineup, it will have to be either David or Travis Wear guarding him which will be extremely tough. On the other block is either Will Yeguete or Dorian Finney-Smith. since the Wear brothers will have trouble defending those guys, the 255-pound Tony Parker is going to play a big role for UCLA.
Surprisingly, the Bruins may have the better bench with Zach LAVine and Bryce Alford both able to put the ball in the basket, whereas the Gators lack a true change-of-pace guy in the second unit, although Finney-Smith is problematic.
Another underrated facet of UCLA is how well their defense has been playing, holding their first two opponents below 37% shooting. A lot of people are assuming the Gators will win because they are the No. 1 seed, but expect an extremely close Games as the Bruins have what it takes to pull off an upset here.