On Thursday night, the Florida Gators picked up their 29th straight victory by a score of 78-69 over the UCLA Bruins, advancing to face the Dayton Flyers in the Elite 8. For Florida, the win displayed everything that makes the team so unspectacular, yet efficient enough to continue to take down top-notch teams. The Gators now look inevitable to emerge from the 2014 NCAA Tournament as the national champions.
During the early stages of the game, UCLA attempted to force a track meet, but Florida really did not budge. Before long, it was apparent the game was going to be a grudge match. Once this was made clear, it almost seemed as if the Gators were content with the score remaining relatively close, knowing that they could force the Bruins to continuously take bad shots.
This strategy worked to perfection as Florida took a workmanlike 36-30 lead into halftime, although the final 20 minutes of the game never seemed as close as the score indicated. A pair of 3-pointers early in the second half by Michael Frazier II helped set the tone for Florida, and from there the Gators slowly suffocated the life out of a listless Bruins offense.
Looking at Florida’s roster, it is hard to find any true talent that is a lock to succeed in the NBA, but that is part of what makes the Gators so good. Whether it is Frazier, Patric Young, Will Yeugete, Casey Prathar or Scottie Wilekin, each and every player on the Gators is able and willing to give their all on the defensive end of the court, and they battle hard enough on the boards offensively to grind out 70-80 points against any team in the country.
After winning 18 games by 10 or less points during the season, it is also clear that this unit knows how to grind out close wins.
Moving forward, it is obvious that Florida is going to continue to make each and every game a war of attrition, knowing they have the experience in close games to deliver when it counts most. After watching them gut out 29 straight victories, it is hard to deny that they are the favorites to win the NCAA tournament, and have almost developed an air of inevitability along the way.