The first ranked Florida Gators take on the UCLA Bruins on Thursday. Florida has won 28 games straight and has shown zero signs of slowing down their pace. The Gators are looking to advance to their fourth straight Elite Eight and they are in pursuit of their first Final Four since winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
UCLA is in search of their first Elite Eight since back-to-back trips to the Final Four in 2007 and 2008. UCLA is under the direction of Steve Alford who is in his first year at the helm of the program. Alford was previously at New Mexico and has had a fairly good amount of tournament experience in the past.
The Bruins finished second in the Pac-12 one of the deeper conference country. The conference had eight teams finish with 20 or more wins and UCLA was able to finish 12-6 in the conference.
UCLA is led in scoring by sophomore guard Jordan Adams who averages 17.4 ppg. UCLA sophomore star Kyle Anderson paces the team with 14.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 6.5 apg, he is one of the most dynamic small forwards remaining in the tournament. Outside of Anderson and Adams, the Bruins struggle to secure rebounds and score points.
Florida has had a phenomenal season and Billy Donovan has his Gators looking unbeatable. Florida has not lost a basketball game since December second when they lost to Shabbazz Napier and UCONN. Florida was a perfect 18-0 in the SEC and won the SEC tournament championship. Only three teams made the tournament from the SEC but all three of those teams, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee, are all still in the tournament field.
Florida has been led by senior guard Scottie Wilbekin who torched the Panthers for 21 points last Saturday. Wilbekin is joined by senior forwards Casey Prather and Patric Young who average 14.1 ppg and 10.9 ppg respectively.
How they got here:
UCLA won the Pac-12 conference championship game by upsetting one seed Arizona 75-71. The Bruins had no problem in beating 13 seed Tulsa and 12 seed Stephen F. Austin. However, this time, the Bruins will not be the heavy favorites and will face a talented Florida team.
Florida won the SEC tournament championship and defeated Albany and Pitt in order to reach the Sweet 16.
What will happen:
Florida should have no problem disposing of UCLA. The Bruins are a good team but they are a young team, and will have a lot of trouble matching up with the highly talented Gators. Florida has not lost in nearly four months, and looks poised to make it four straight Elite Eight appearances. In the Gators’ previous game with Pitt, the Panthers gave Florida everything that they could but had no answer for Scottie Wilbekin who seemed to make every shot that he attempted.
The game will air on CBS at 9:45 on Thursday.