UCLA has made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008. In order to continue its run in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins will be forced to upend the No. 1 seed in the field, Florida.
The recent tournament history between the two programs (Florida is 3-0 in the teams’ most recent meetings, including two Final Four victories) creates an engaging storyline for Thursday’s showdown. Notwithstanding historical context, UCLA faces an immense challenge as it aims to advance to the Elite Eight.
Florida is arguably the best team in the nation and is equipped with one of the best defenses we’ve seen all season. The Gators are on a 28-game winning streak, having suffered their last loss on Dec. 2 and cruising through the SEC with an untarnished 18-0 conference record.
That’s a daunting track record to consider for a UCLA team that lost conference games to Oregon State and Washington State.
Yet, the Bruins are long beyond their Pac-12 woes. Since losing to Washington State in its regular-season conference finale, UCLA has been playing its best basketball.
The Bruins not only defeated a highly ranked Arizona team in the Pac-12 tournament final, but have also won both of their NCAA tournament games in convincing fashion.
If ever there were a chance for UCLA to usurp the best team in the nation, it will come on Thursday.
History, be it favorable or unfavorable to the Bruins, won’t sway the outcome of their Sweet 16 matchup against the Gators.
They’ll have to hack away at Florida with a collective, precise effort.
Here’s what UCLA will need to do to emerge victorious against the Gators.