Location: FedEx Forum – Memphis, TN [Capacity: 18,119]
Time: 9:45 p.m. EDT (or 30 minutes after the conclusion of Stanford-Dayton)
TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols)
SiriusXM: 92/190 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
See the Game in Person: Sweet 16 Tickets
|(1) FLORIDA GATORS||(4) UCLA BRUINS|
|Head Coach: Billy Donovan||Head Coach: Steve Alford|
|Record: 34-2||Record: 28-8|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Pac-12|
|Roster | Schedule||Roster | Schedule|
Odds: Florida -5 | O/U: 137
HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS
» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 8-0 record overall with that seed winning the national title the previous time it held the ranking entering the tournament (2007).
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Bruins earned the right to play in the Sweet 16 by defeating (12) Stephen F. Austin 77-60 in the Round of 32 on Sunday.
» Florida has played 56 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 40-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 44 of those 56 games under Donovan, going 33-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 7-2 in Sweet 16 games all-time, 6-1 under Donovan with six-straight victories that advanced the program to the Elite Eight (2000, 2006, 2007, 2011-13). Florida has not failed to advance to the Elite Eight while playing in a Sweet 16 game since 1999. In its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gators have won back-to-back national championships (2006-07) and advanced to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13).
» Florida is 3-0 all-time against UCLA with all three games played since 2006 in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators defeated the Bruins for the 2006 national title, in the 2007 Final Four and in the Round of 32 in 2011.
» UF enters Thursday’s fourth-round game on a program-record 28-game winning streak with victories in 33 of its last 34 games.
» The Gators are 85-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» Florida is 7-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 24-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» Florida won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and can set a school record for most wins in a season by winning two more games and advancing to the Final Four.
2014 NCAA TOURNAMENT – SOUTH REGION
In an effort to provide an additional perspective on the Florida-UCLA match-up, OnlyGators.com reached out to former Gators team manager Kyle Gilreath, who runs an interesting basketball blog Words on the Bounce and is an assistant basketball coach at Fort Myers High School. Gilreath compiled a scouting report similar to what UF uses to prepare for an opponent, which you can access via the link below.
FEATURED MATCH-UP: POINT GUARD
Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin may not guard UCLA sophomore Kyle Anderson all game, but the matchup between the two floor generals has been all the hype leading into the Sweet 16. A player of Anderson’s skill would be a difficult guard for anyone including the best on-ball defender in the nation, but the fact that he at 6’9” has nearly seven inches on Wilbekin makes the task seemingly impossible.
“Yes, it’s going to be tough. He’s definitely a unique cover,” Wilbekin said on Wednesday. “We’re just going to try to keep him out of the lane, not let him get a step because he obviously has great length. So if he gets a step on you, he can finish over and around you. So we just have to build walls, help each other, and try to keep him out of the lane.”
Anderson, however, is not taking his height advantage for granted and knows that going up against Wilbekin – when that actually happens – will still be a dogfight.
“He’s a very good on-the-ball defender, as I’ve been watching on film and watching him all year. He’s the SEC Player of the Year. He’s a senior. He’s been here before,” said Anderson. “It’s going to be a good matchup since he’s lower to the ground more than me, has great leverage on me. But I’ve just got to go out there and play my game.”
Alford has the utmost confidence in Anderson and discussed exactly why he has been able to average 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game this season.
“Not just a 6’9″ point guard, a wingspan of 7’3″. We’re talking about a long, very, very long, big point guard,” Alford boasted. “He does so many things for us. He’s our leading rebounder. He’s got the most assists on the team. He’s shooting the ball very well. I think the thing that probably gets undermined and not enough attention to is the way he shoots the basketball. He’s shooting 50 percent at three. … He’s always been a terrific driver and finisher. He sees over traps so well. He passes out of tough situations at the last minute.”
The Gators were heavily involved in recruiting Anderson and were one of his final two schools along with the Bruins. Donovan met with Anderson in his home two nights before he committed to UCLA and believed he had him all locked up for Florida. Then, Ben Howland arrived the following evening and everything changed. Now, the two sides meet in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
“It was a very close decision. I wouldn’t have had a problem with going to both schools,” explained Anderson. “I just happened to like UCLA more. I think the player development that I saw when being recruited by Coach Donovan, I think that played a big role in how much I liked Florida at the time. But I decided to come to UCLA, and I was happy with my decision.”
But while the Bruins are locked in on Wilbekin and the Gators on Anderson, each team has plenty of other dangerous weapons. Anderson, for example, is not even UCLA’s leading scorer; that is 17.4-point-per-game guard Jordan Adams. Similarly, Wilbekin is not Florida’s leading point-getter (senior forward Casey Prather) or even its best shooter (sophomore G Michael Frazier II).
Wilbekin-Anderson may be the headline, but the rest of the cast will be the story.
FEATURED STORYLINE: DEFENSE VS. OFFENSE
Wilbekin and Anderson are not only the best players on their respective team, they also stand as representatives of what each squad excels at on the basketball court.
Florida enters Thursday’s showdown with the No. 3 scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 57.5 points per game, while UCLA can boast the No. 9 scoring offense in the country by averaging 81.5 points each contest.
Sticking to their principles will be key for the Gators, which must not only hold the Bruins below their scoring average but also find a way to put up enough points where they can overcome adversity if their defense falters.
Florida has played 10 games against top-100 offenses this season (Kentucky – three times) and held all below their scoring average in regulation, holding them to 11.8 fewer points per game on average.
Conversely, UCLA needs to find a way to stop a UF team that can go on long runs in the middle of games by pushing tempo and draining open three-point shots.
“A lot’s been made out of Florida’s defense, and a lot’s been made of our offense. I think there will be a lot more than just their defense and our offense,” explained Alford. “I think our defense is probably better than advertised, and I know Florida’s offense is probably better than advertised.”
Florida checks in 196th nationally in offense (70.4 points per game), while UCLA is 178th defensively (70.1 points per contest).
“So, I think you’ve got two really good teams,” he continued. “You’ve got a Florida team that obviously has proved it over time. This is a group of seniors that they’ve been right there. They’ve had incredible success for three years and now here they’ve got this incredible win streak. You go through a conference like the SEC and never lose, never lose in the tournament, this is a very, very good basketball team that we’re playing, an extremely well coached team.
“So we know the challenges. We’re playing our best basketball, and I think that’s what makes for a great matchup. But you play Florida, you’re going to have to score. If the game’s in the 50s, that’s probably not favoring UCLA. We need the thing to be a little bit more up tempo than that.”
For his part, Donovan is not concerned about the Gators putting up points. He just wants to make sure his squad does not allow the Bruins to get to the basket easily.
“We all want the ball to go in the basket. I hope we score 120 [Thursday], but we haven’t done it this year,” he said.
“I think we want to play up-tempo; UCLA wants to play up-tempo. There’s things you have to do in playing up-tempo: you have to take care of the ball, you don’t want to give up easy baskets. Certainly for us, we’re pressing. When we press, we’re trying to force tempo. We would like to play fast but there’s things that we have to do inside of playing fast – and when you’re playing against a team as gifted and as talented as UCLA is on the break, in their halfcourt offense, you want to make sure that you’re able to get matched up and not give up a lot of easy baskets.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on whether he feels added pressure this year: “There’s no easy exit out of the NCAA Tournament. … I think the pressure that I place on myself would be more internal in terms of trying to get our team prepared and ready to play. I don’t think my intensity or my passion has changed today from where it was 10 years ago as it related to that.”
» Donovan on information about his contract extension being released this week: “I was actually a little bit surprised it came out. That happened last year. So it’s like I’m getting congratulated on this new news but that was done last year. So, obviously, very, very thankful, very appreciative of Dr. [Bernie] Machen and Jeremy [Foley] and what they’ve done for myself and my family. But that was something that happened at the end of last season.”
PROGRAM RECORDS SET, EXTENDED THIS SEASON
» Record to start a season (overall): 34-2
» Regular-season record (SEC): 18-0
» Winning streak (overall): 28 games
» Regular-season wins: 29
» SEC regular-season wins (single season): 18
» SEC road wins (consecutive): 9
» Home wins (overall, consecutive): 32
» Home wins (SEC, consecutive): 18
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Young and Wilbekin are steadily inching their way up many of Florida’s all-time lists.
Wins at an SEC school
1. Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) – 875
2. Billy Donovan (Florida) – 449
2. Dale Brown (LSU) – 448
Most Wins by a Senior Class
1. Casey Prather / Scottie Wilbekin / Will Yeguete / Patric Young (2014) – 118
1. Walter Hodge (2009) – 117
1. Walter Hodge – 151
2. Patric Young – 147
3. Kenny Boynton – 145
4. Erving Walker – 144
5. Chandler Parsons / Alex Tyus – 142
7. Dan Werner / Chris Richard – 141
9. Scottie Wilbekin – 140
29. Vernon Delancy – 1,291
30. Patric Young – 1,272
5. Dwayne Davis – 160
6. Patric Young – 155
Field Goal Percentage (minimum 500 attempts)
6. Ronnie Williams – .585
7. Udonis Haslem – .584
8. David Lee – .581
9. Patric Young – .578
10. Casey Prather – .570
Dunks (unofficial statistic)
3. David Lee – 155
4. Alex Tyus – 146
5. Patric Young – 141
4. Malcom Cesare – 361
5. Patric Young – 353
7. Eddie Shannon – 3,676
8. Walter Hodge – 3,587
9. Patric Young – 3,561
5. Vernon Delancy – 427
6. Greg Williams – 423
7. Scottie Wilbekin – 412
6. Andrew Moten – 165
7. Justin Hamilton – 164
8. Kenyan Weaks – 163
9. Scottie Wilbekin – 161