How’s your NCAA Tournament bracket doing? That is the question that I have heard the most today. Not too bad, actually. I had Duke, Syracuse, Villanova, Wichita State, and Kansas all not surviving the weekend anyway. I just didn’t always pick the right team to beat them.
In one of my work pools I made the mistake of having Creighton beat Baylor — and Oregon — so I have some ground to make up there. But here, I get to wipe the slate clean and just pick this round again. So far with the round-by-round picks, including the play-in games, I am sitting at 37-15. No one ever said that this was an exact science.
SOUTH REGION at MEMPHIS, TN:
(1) Florida vs. (4) UCLA:
This is one of the few places where a bracket is not destroyed. Florida stymied a Pittsburgh offense that trampled Colorado in the first round. Pitt was not getting the easy baskets on drives to the lane like they did against the undersized Ralphies. Florida forced them into a much slower game, and didn’t relinquish the lead again after they took it for good with five-and-a-half minutes left in the first half. The true story of this game was turnovers, or in Florida’s case, a lack thereof. The Gators turned the ball over just five times in the first half. In the second half, their lone turnover was a shot clock violation with five seconds left in the game. This kind of play will take you very far in the NCAA Tournament. Florida should know — this is their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance.
UCLA made short work of a Stephen F. Austin team that pulled the unlikely upset of VCU. The Lumberjacks were not hitting as many outside shots as they did against VCU, and they largely got run ragged by UCLA. The Bruins opened the second half at a frenetic pace and buried SFA with quick transition baskets, all while committing just three turnovers during the entire game. Steve Alford has the Bruins advancing past the first weekend for the first time in six years.
Chalk held, and I am curious to see at what pace this game will be played. The Gators like to slow you down and make you make mistakes. UCLA wants to destroy your spirit by running you into the ground. Florida has enough players to survive a more up tempo game, but are more comfortable keeping the pace to a minimum. The team that dictates the tempo should win this game. I expect it to be close, especially considering that these two teams had less than ten turnovers combined in their last games. Well, I took Florida to win the whole damn thing, so I should probably stick with them. (Pick: Florida)