Florida vs. UCLA: Why the Bruins Should Worry the Top-Seeded Gators

John OwningCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2014

Mar 23, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins mascot performs in the second half of a men's college basketball game during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at Viejas Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The No. 1 seed Florida Gators will take on the No. 4 seed UCLA Bruins this Thursday night, March 27, in a game that should have Gator fans feeling anxious. 

UCLA already has experience beating highly ranked seeds since they recently defeated the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 championship game on March 15th. In that game, the Bruins proved they can go toe-to-toe with one of the best defensive teams (Arizona ranks fifth in scoring defense, while Florida is ranked third) in college basketball and win. UCLA got a big game from sophomore guard Kyle Anderson and played great defense in the second half, limiting Arizona to only 31 points. 

Comparing UCLA and Florida
TeamPoints Per GameOpp Points per GameFree throw %Turnovers per game

The Bruins have a highly potent offense, as it is ranked ninth in college basketball at 81.5 points per game. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams and Anderson carry the Bruins offense and are a major reason the Bruins have the ability to explode on offense against anyone.

Florida's defense has been a force all year, allowing just 57.5 points per game. The defense is led by SEC Player of the Year, senior center Patric Young. Young patrols the paint for the Gators and is a huge deterrent inside. 

A huge part of the Gators' success is by causing turnovers with their full-court press. However, UCLA is one of the best teams in college basketball in turnovers, averaging only 10.3 turnovers per game. 

While UCLA's offense and Florida's defense are the hallmarks of each team, this game will most likely come down to Florida's offense and UCLA's defense.

UCLA proved in its game against Arizona that they have the potential to play superior team defense. UCLA must play suffocating defense to beat the Gators, but they can do it. 

Florida also has a huge weakness in its effectiveness at the charity stripe. Florida shoots an abysmal 66.3 percent from the free-throw line. This means the Bruins can foul driving Gators instead of allowing open layups, causing the Gators to potentially miss about a third of their free throws. This will also prove very valuable late in the game if it is close. While the Bruins are a very good free-throw shooting team, at 74.9 percent, the Gators may struggle to make key free throws late. 

Look for this game to come down to the wire and down to free-throw shooting. Will the Gator's poor free-throw shooting prove to be their Achilles' Heel, or will they improve their impressive 28-game winning streak?