March Madness: UCLA Set to Tangle With Florida In the Southeast Region
It’s UCLA against Florida in the Southeast Region of March Madness.
What’s the biggest story heading into today’s second round matchup between Florida and UCLA?
According to the AP, that depends on how you interpret the question.
Bruins’ center Josh Smith is 6-foot-10, 325-pounds. He has lost fifty pounds since the beginning of his freshman year at UCLA. Which was last August. Josh Smith is still a freshman.
The big man from Kent, Washington has averaged 10.7 points and 6.3 boards this year, and after experimenting with Davis as a sixth man to keep him out of foul trouble, he has since been reinserted to the starting lineup for the Tournament.
“He’s a mountain,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s a freight train. I would say every game that Josh Smith goes into, he has a physical advantage. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
“He changes the game when he’s in there because he’s a low-post threat” said UCLA coach Ben Howland. “There’s so few guys that are really good in the low post, or anywhere, whether it’s in the NBA or college basketball. When you find one and you have one, it’s important to take advantage of it.”
In an apt remembrance, that same AP article references the Florida-UCLA Final Four matchups of 2006 and 2007:
“The Gators had a significant size advantage inside, with 6-foot-10 Al Horford and 6-foot-11 Joakim Noah in the starting lineup and 6-foot-9 Chris Richards coming off the bench.
Horford, Noah and the Gators dominated both meetings, winning 73-57 in the title game in 2006 and notching a 76-66 victory in the semifinals the following year.”
Now, the roles are reversed.
If Florida is to advance, they’ll have to maintain the defensive intensity that saw them hold UCSB to 27% shooting from the floor, while controlling Smith. The Gators are the top rebounding team in the SEC, and they’ll combat the big freshman with the quickness and agility of 6-10, 245-pund C Vernon Macklin.
Davis’ shadow threatens to loom large, but if Florida is able to control the boards in this one, they figure to advance.
(Check out the B/R NCAA Tournament page for more tourney info.)
(Download your B/R NCAA bracket here!)
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