After steamrolling their first two opponents, UCLA will take on its toughest foe of the season in their Sweet 16 matchup. Meeting up in the tournament for the first time since 2011, the fourth seeded Bruins will need to knock off the number one overall seed Florida Gators if they are to advance to the Elite Eight. In a matchup that will see UCLA’s dynamic offense (81.8 points per game) against Florida’s stout defense (57.9 points allowed per game), UCLA will need to score efficiently and get enough stops on the defensive end if they are to have any chance of winning.
Having allowed only three teams to surpass the 70-point mark in a game, Florida will make it difficult for UCLA to play their usual up-tempo pace. Aiming to keep this game in the 60’s, the Gators will try to control the flow of the game with their usual grind-it-out style. With Florida’s primary focus being point-forward Kyle Anderson, UCLA will need other players to contribute. In a game where points will not come easy, leading scorer Jordan Adams is the key to the Bruins defeating Billy Donovan’s club.
Averaging 17.4 points per game this season, the 6’ 5” guard has begun playing his best basketball of the season at the right time. Over his last 11 games, the Atlanta native is averaging 18.6 points per game, while shooting 56.7 percent from the field. This season, when Adams shoots the ball 50 percent or better, the Bruins are 18-0, but find themselves just 10-7 when he makes less than half of his shots. Playing against a defense that forces its opponents to shoot a paltry 39.8 percent, Jordan Adams will need to drive to the basket and avoid settling for contested outside jumpers.
Going against an enormous Florida frontcourt, Adams will need to draw fouls and get to the line for the Bruins. Likely matching up against Casey Prather, Adams will face a hard-nosed defender that can match Adams’ length. However, Adams is an expert at using his body to shield defenders down on the blocks, and his stocky frame will be on full display. Also, Scottie Wilbekin will guard Adams at various points in the game. With a three inch height advantage, Adams will need to punish Wilbekin down low.
Facing lockdown defenders isn’t new to Adams, who has gone against PAC-12 Player of the Year and defensive stopper Nick Johnson plenty of times over his two year career. Adams himself is an excellent defender, and is one of few Bruins who can also change the game on the defensive end. With a knack for getting in passing lanes that bears resemblance to Marcus Smart, Adams averages an impressive 2.7 steals per game. His pesky defense on Michael Frazier II and Casey Prather could help limit a Gators offense that relies heavily on both of these players to score.
With an elite offense squaring off against an elite defense, the game will simply come down to matchups and should be a tight one. And while the primary focus will be on Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams is the key to deciding UCLA’s fate. If Adams can produce a stat line of 20 points (on 50 percent or better shooting), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, the Bruins should be marching to their first Elite Eight since 2008.