Consider the Gators properly focused and on edge for tonight's NCAA Sweet 16 matchup vs. UCLA. • In the fourth NCAA Tournament meeting between the two schools since 2006, tonight's game offers a challenging contrast of styles: top-seeded Florida's strong defense against the fourth-seeded Bruins' high-scoring offense. • "The coaches are putting us on edge getting us ready for this game, because this game is not going to be easy," Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier said. "I think we understand that. The level that these guys play at, they have size across all five positions. We know it's going to be a battle. I think we're ready." • What the Gators are preparing for is a Bruins team with a starting lineup that includes 6-foot-9 point guard Kyle Anderson; guards Jordan Adams and Norman Powell, who are 6-5 and 6-4, respectively; and forwards Travis Wear and David Wear, who are both 6-10.
The SEC doesn't have a single point guard as tall as Anderson, and Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin is aware of the challenge.
"He's definitely a unique cover," Wilbekin said. "The Harrison twins (Kentucky) and Jordan Clarkson (Missouri) were the two tallest guards that we faced this year. We're just going to try to keep him out of the lane, not let him get a step because he obviously has great length (a 7-foot-3 wingspan). So if he gets a step on you, he can finish over and around you. We have to build walls, help each other and try to keep him out of the lane."
UCLA coach Steve Alford said the challenge for opponents isn't just Anderson's size but his versatility. He averages 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and hits 49.1 percent from 3-point range.
"I don't know of anything that's been bigger for us," Alford said. "He does so many things for us. He's our leading rebounder. He's got the most assists on the team. He's shooting the ball very well. … Now he can shoot it from the 3-point line."
The Gators allow 57.5 points per game, UCLA is averaging 81.5. Conventional wisdom says if the game is in the 50s or lower, Florida is in good shape. A high-scoring game favors UCLA.
"I believe it's going to be a challenge for us because, obviously, it's a very good offensive team," UF senior forward Will Yeguete said. "We know we're a really good defensive team as well, and it's just going to be a battle."
All season, the Gators have relied on their ability to press, then play zone in the halfcourt. UCLA plays zone 37.5 percent of the time. Florida's highest scoring SEC games were 84 points twice (one in OT).
Coach Billy Donovan said his Gators want to play fast, but not at the expense of playing great defense.
"I hope we score 120, but we haven't done it this year," Donovan said. "I think we want to play uptempo. UCLA wants to play uptempo. There's things you have to do in playing uptempo. You have to take care of the ball. You don't want to give up easy baskets. Certainly for us, we're pressing. When we press, we're trying to force tempo. We would like to play fast, but there's things that we have to do inside of playing fast, and when you're playing against a team as gifted and as talented as UCLA is on the break, in their halfcourt offense, you want to make sure that you're able to get matched up and not give up a lot of easy baskets."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.