NCAA Tournament Seed: #1 seed, and the #1 seed overall
Ranking: The Gators ended the regular season ranked #1 overall in both the USA Today Coaches Poll and AP Poll. The Gators took over the #1 ranking in the polls February 24th; they began the season ranked 10th and 9th.
NCAA Path: Florida beat #16-seed Albany, 67-55, in the second round of the Tournament, and then #9-seeded Pittsburgh, 61-45, in the third round. The general consensus was that they under-achieved and played uncharacteristically against Albany, being tied with about 15 minutes to play, but got back on track against Pittsburgh.
Basketball and NCAA History: Florida is coached by Billy Donovan, who is in his 18th year in Gainesville. He and the Gators won back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2007, beating UCLA in both years, once in the final (2006) and then in the semi-final (2007). Florida has been two other Final Fours in hits history, once under Lon Kruger (1994) and then in 2000 under Donovan. Since the two championships in 2006 and 2007, Florida achieved three consecutive Elite Eights, from 2011 to 2013. With 2014, they are the only program in the nation to reach four Sweet 16s in a row.
After the two NCAA championships, and Donovan briefly accepting the head coaching job with the Orlando Magic for four days and then reneging, Florida was in a rebuilding phase for a number of years. They didn't make the Tournament in 2008 or 2009, and in 2010 lost in the first round.
2013-2014 Season: The Gators are 34-2, and went 18-0 to win the SEC. They beat Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Championship, 61-60. They currently have the nation's longest winning streak at 28 games, having not lost since December 2nd.
Quick Snapshot of Team: Florida's calling card is its defense, being ranked third in the nation in points allowed (57.5) and 23rd in field-goal percentage defense (39.8%). That has made them #8 in the country in scoring margin (12.9). In terms of adjusted defensive efficiency rating, Florida is the nation's #2 defense, allowing just .888 per possession, second only to Arizona (.872). They also are a good rebounding team, being ranked 32nd in the country for rebound margin (+4.8). They can, though, struggle sometimes to score, being ranked just 181st in the nation in points per game (71). The Gators are led by their senior lead guard, 6-2 Scottie Wilbekin, who leads the team in scoring (15.5), assists (3.0), shooting percentage (54%) and three-point shooting percentage (36%). The 6-9, 240-pound senior post Patric Young is the force inside, averaging 9 rebounds to go along with 8.5 points per game.
• UCLA and Florida will play their Sweet 16 game at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., at approximately 6:45 PST, Thursday, March 27th (CBS). It gives Florida one extra day than UCLA since their Round-of-32 games.
• The 2014 Final Four is in AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. UCLA's football team will play Texas in AT&T Stadium September 13th. The 2015 College Football Championship will also be played in AT&T Stadium January 12th, 2015.
• Florida is the second team in a week that holds the longest winning streak in the nation at the time UCLA will face them. Stephen F. Austin had the longest winning streak at 29 games when UCLA beat then Sunday. SFA actually had the longest streak for just a matter of hours, since Wichita State's 35-straight was the leader until it was knocked off earlier in the day by Kentucky.
• If UCLA wins on Thursday, it will play the winner of Stanford/Dayton in the Elite Eight on Saturday in Memphis. UCLA went 2-1 against Stanford this season, beating the Cardinal at Pauley in January, 91-74, losing in Palo Alto in February, 83-74, and then trouncing them in the semi-finals of the Pac-12 Tournament, 84-59. UCLA and Dayton had two common opponents in 2013-2014, with Dayton beating Cal in the Maui Invitational in November, 82-64; and then losing to USC in Dayton, in overtime, 79-76. UCLA swept USC and Cal this season.
• Florida's Billy Donovan was reportedly one of the coaches UCLA contacted after it fired Ben Howland last spring. According to sources, Donovan didn't show enough interest to warrant UCLA pursuing him.