Florida vs. UCLA, 2014 NCAA Tournament, Game Thread: Have a little faith

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Florida faces a talented, long, and deep UCLA team in the Sweet Sixteen on this Thursday night. But the Gators are good, too.

As mentioned earlier, I am a little scared of this Thursday night Florida vs. UCLA game (9:47 p.m., CBS or March Madness Live).

Here's the short list of reasons why:

  • UCLA is due to beat Florida. Yeah, I know, they were different players and different teams, but Florida, while very good at basketball, shouldn't be quite good enough to win every game it every plays against UCLA. Maybe it is, though!
  • UCLA is long. The Bruins are fifth in Average Height and 20th in Effective Height, according to KenPom, and can thus defend well and throw up threes merely by playing straight up. It's easier for tall people on a basketball court.
  • UCLA just beat Arizona like two weeks ago. Arizona's one of two teams (Louisville is the other) that has arguably had a better season than Florida, and very, very good; if UCLA can beat Arizona, it can beat Florida. (Probably.)
  • Marshall Henderson is rooting for Florida. So that's great.

But if I'm being hopeful, and not fearful, there are plenty of reasons to believe in Florida, too.

  • Florida's really good. I really do think this is the best team in the country. There's so much balance on offense and so much resilience and hustle on defense that the Gators can play left-handed just as well as they can force opponents to do the same. UCLA relies on running to beat teams; what happens if Florida takes that away?
  • Florida didn't come this far to go out easy. This team is fueled by disappointments that the rest of the country hasn't had, and so it has more fuel for its first than any other team. It often plays like that, which is fun.
  • Florida's been good against talented UCLA teams before. It's arguable that even the 2006 and 2007 Florida teams, ones with multiple lottery picks, were at a talent disadvantage in their games against UCLA. Didn't matter then.
  • Again: Florida's a bad matchup for UCLA. UCLA wants to run and shoot, but doesn't play great halfcourt defense, and isn't as good in the halfcourt on offense as it is in transition. The Gators are fantastic at slowing games down and forcing teams to earn points.
  • Timmy.

So I'm gonna breathe, and hope, and believe. Join me, won't you?

Go Gators.

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