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Tale of the tape

Round Of 16 Matchup: #1 Florida Vs. #4 UCLA

By Shawn S. Lealos
With all the upsets and Cinderella teams, here is one Sweet 16 game that was played out as predicted. Florida, who entered the March Madness tournament as the overall No. 1 seed, prepares to defend that position with a game against fourth ranked UCLA. It looks to be a very even matchup, as Arizona won their first two games by an average of 14 points, and UCLA took both of theirs by an average of 17.

(credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) (credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) (credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

#1 Florida

#4 UCLA

Billy Donovan and his Florida Gators have not lost a game since Dec. 2. In his 18-year career at Florida, Donovan has won two NCAA championships and has made it to the Elite Eight in each of the past three seasons. Making it back this year is expected. Coaching On the opposite end of the spectrum, Steve Alford is in his first season as the head coach at UCLA, after a successful stint at New Mexico. He has his Bruins in the Sweet 16 after back-to-back March Madness appearances with the Lobos. He has really helped turn things around at UCLA, but he might be overmatched here.
Despite being the overall No. 1 seed, Florida only ranks 181st in the nation in offensive points scored. After barely doing what they needed to beat Albany in their first game, they looked a bit better in manhandling Pittsburgh, but it was not the offense that was on display here. Only two players scored in double digits in the Panthers win, with Scottie Wilbekin leading the way with 21. Offense The Bruins are the complete opposite of the Gators. While Florida uses a strong defense to make up for a lack of scoring, UCLA has a powerful offense that needs to outscore their opponents to win. Ranked 12th in the nation and led by Jordan Adams (40 points in the first two games), these Bruins can score a lot of points, fast.
The reason the Gators are ranked so high is because of their defense, which is ranked third best in the nation (57.5). After letting Albany score 55 against them, they shut down Pittsburgh, only allowing the Panthers to put up 45 points on 37.3 percent shooting. The Gators out-rebounded Pitt, 38-31, and finished that game with 10 steals. Defense While UCLA has a great offense that can put up a lot of points, their defense ranks 178th in the nation. The first two Bruins wins were by blowouts, but Tulsa and SF Austin are not teams to really stack against in the March Madness tournament. They did hold the two teams to 37 percent shooting with Kyle Anderson pulling down 13 defensive rebounds, but they will have to do a lot more against the Gators offense.
The Gators only used three bench players against Pittsburgh, but both averaged over 20 minutes. Neither Kasey Hill nor Dorian Finney-Smith is a scorer, but both are solid role players that allow the Gators to rotate their stars to keep them fresh. Bench Depth The Bruins believe in rotation and have three bench players who put in a lot of minutes in Tony Parker, Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford. Parker and Alford are the two to watch, as they can score a lot of points in reserve roles.

We'll just call it a tie

(credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) (credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

While this looks like a tie, with UCLA having the advantage on offense and the bench, the Florida Gators are a very strong team. This is a game that could be the most exciting of the tournament, with a great offense battling a great defense, but if the Super Bowl showed the world anything, it was that a great defense can really shut down a great offense. Florida should leave this game with the win by about four.

Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience in the media He covers all things college basketball. Find his work at Examiner.com.

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