UCLA, Florida not quite a rematch

Saturday’s UCLA-Florida game shouldn’t be called a rematch.

Yes, Florida returns every key player from last year’s team with the exception of reserve forward Adrian Moss. Yes, future pros Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer have each had another stellar year. And, yes, it seems the smart money is on Billy Donovan’s team to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Duke did it during the 1991-92 seasons.

But for all that has stayed the same with Florida, on Saturday, they will face an entirely different UCLA team than it dismantled, 73-57 last year.

For starters, UCLA is a team that looks like it belongs in the Final Four. Last year, the Bruins were nearly eliminated twice on the way to the championship game. In the second round against Alabama, the Bruins were down by two points with under a minute to go before being bailed out by an Aaron Afflalo three-pointer. Then against Gonzaga in the regional semifinals, the Bruins had to overcome a 17-point deficit.

This year, the Bruins have cruised to the Final Four by an average victory margin of more than 13 points a game.

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Syracuse’s snub baffling

The numbers seemed to favor Syracuse.

Overall, the Orange finished with 22 wins, including 10 conference wins. Key wins included toppling then-No. 10 Georgetown and Villanova, and also at Marquette. All three of those teams will be dancing. Syracuse, for the first time since the 2001-02 season, will not.

“We finished 10-6 in the league, which is fifth place, and we thought that would be enough, but the committee didn’t agree with us,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “There is nothing we can do about that. I know in our league, a 10-6 team has never not gotten into the NCAA Tournament.”

To be sure, Syracuse had a weak RPI (51) and a relatively soft strength of schedule (45). Add this to the losses at home to Wichita State and Drexel, and then a loss to Oklahoma State at Madison Square Garden, and Syracuse could be considered a bubble team.

But selection committee chairman Gary Walters said Syracuse didn’t make the tournament because of the strange scheduling of the Big East’s conference schedule. The Big East, which consists of 16 teams, had some teams that wouldn’t play each other in the regular season. This, Walters said, hurt Syracuse.

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