Y'all may know that I write college basketball power rankings for the mothership. Here are the ones from this week, and below are the appropriate Florida and UCLA segments.
No. 1: Florida
Road to the Sweet Sixteen: Wore out Albany, 67-55; declawed Pittsburgh, 61-45.
Record vs. Sweet Sixteen teams: 6-2 (3-0 vs. Kentucky, 3-0 vs. Tennessee, 0-1 vs. UConn, 0-1 vs. Wisconsin)
Counting Pittsburgh, Florida has played seven teams that won at least one NCAA Tournament game, and gone 8-2 in those games, with both losses coming without a full-strength squad. Granted, Florida is just 2-2 in non-SEC games against those teams, but Florida is also 6-2 against Sweet Sixteen teams, having played four of them, and the Gators went 6-0 against Kentucky and Tennessee, which just edged Wichita State in a tremendous game and rampaged through its subregional, respectively.
Florida's SEC dominance doesn't look quite so bad now, does it?
The Gators also clamped down on both Albany and Pittsburgh to win games despite off days from their offense: Florida allowed 0.89 PPP to the Great Danes and 0.82 PPP to the Panthers, a top-20 offense per KenPom, which enabled the Gators to win by double digits in both games while shooting 25 percent from three. Count on defense continuing to be Florida's emphasis, as Billy Donovan knows Florida hasn't lost an NCAA Tournament game when allowing less than 1.00 PPP in the KenPom era.
Don't count on the Gators staying that cold from distance.
And here's UCLA:
No. 9: UCLA
Road to the Sweet Sixteen: Stormed by Tulsa, 76-59; axed Stephen F. Austin, 77-60.
Record vs. Sweet Sixteen teams: 3-2 (2-1 vs. Stanford, 1-1 vs. Arizona)
Three teams played two teams with a combined seed number of 25 to get to the Sweet Sixteen: Florida (a No. 1 seed that couldn't play anything lower than a 24), Michigan State (which had to beat a game Harvard team that stung Cincinnati), San Diego State (which edged towering New Mexico State in overtime, then shut down not-quite-a-12-seed North Dakota State) and UCLA. Of the four roads, UCLA's was easiest: Tulsa was and is a year away, and could do nothing on offense against the bigger Bruins, while Stephen F. Austin's center was shorter than UCLA's point guard, and could do even less.
That's not to take away from what the Bruins did in winning those games from a combined 34 points; it's just context. UCLA has a ton of blue-chip talent that was procured by Ben Howland and retained by Steve Alford, maybe more than any other team in the country except for Kentucky and Michigan State, and if you can convince yourself that height advantages and tempo are enough for UCLA against Florida, there's a trendy upset pick to be made.
Having watched Florida fend off Kentucky three times, I'm not sold on that pick, but I do respect the Bruins. One glaring problem, though: As (Luke) Winn noted, Florida's absurdly good in transition defense. And UCLA, a running team, loves to score in transition, with the second-shortest offensive possessions (behind Iowa State) of teams remaining in the Tournament.
What do you think? Are you worried like I am?