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College basketball NCAA tournament preview: UCLA vs Florida

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The Florida Gators breezed through the first two rounds of action last week. On Thursday, CBS Sports named Florida as a 4.5 favorite over UCLA in the Sweet 16. The Gators haven’t had many struggles since their loss to Connecticut in December, so this should be their most significant test of the season.

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It’s the first time all year that Florida’s season has been in doubt, and they’ll be facing PAC-12 champion UCLA. The Bruins also had a relatively easy time earning a sweet 16 bid, however, they’ll be up against the class of college basketball.

UCLA (28-8) vs. Florida (34-2) 9:45 p.m. CBS

If you take one look at Florida, nothing great stands out. They play tremendous defense with nice size along the front line, but it’s not like they have the dynamic shot blocker dominating the game.

Patric Young has been a force inside, and his toughness has been pivotal for the Gators’ fortunes. Ever since his offensive rebound and monstrous slam against Albany, Florida has not looked back in the NCAA tournament.

Ranking the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 games.

Kyle Anderson has the ability to take over the game for UCLA. He’ll need to be at his best when he faces that vaunted Gator press. The Bruins must pass the ball with precision if they are going to pull the upset.

So far, both teams have been decisive with their ball movement, and Thursday won’t be the time to become hesitant. Scottie Wilbekin has been flawless in the tournament, so expect him to make all the plays for Florida.

Ranking the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 teams.

However, if the Gators can’t force turnovers on UCLA, it will be difficult for Florida to score enough points. Not many teams can put the ball in the hoop like the Bruins. With Jordan Adams on the floor, UCLA has better shooting across the board.

UCLA shoots 75 percent from the foul line, while Florida sits at 66 percent. Both teams shoot well from two point range. Florida is just over 46 percent, while UCLA is at 49 percent. The Bruins also shoots 38 percent from three point range. Florida is just below at 36 percent.

The x-factor for Florida will be Michael Frazier. He’s not the only threat from downtown, but he’s the most consistent. Frazier is capable of hitting six or more three’s in a hurry. In fact, the Bruins should be worried about his contributions the most.

With the style of play of both teams, the game should turn into an up tempo affair. That should favor the Bruins in the long run.

Prediction

How do you count out a team that hasn’t lost since Dec. 2? Florida has made three straight Elite 8 games, so they’ll be ready for the big stage in Memphis. UCLA could be the team capable of holding the trophy at the end of the tournament. If they shoot it well and get out in transition, they’ll win it. Still, the SEC hasn’t lost in the tournament yet.

Florida 80- UCLA 78

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