Point guard play is so often the difference in March. Thursday night's NCAA tournament South Regional showdown between the top-seeded Florida Gators (34-2) and the No. 4 UCLA Bruins (28-8) at FedEx Forum provides a delicious study in contrasts at the most important position on the court. The Gators are guided by "Scottie Ice," also known as Scottie Wilbekin, the 6-2 senior guard, SEC Player of the Year and lock-down defender. The Bruins counter with "Slo-Mo," Kyle Anderson, a 6-9 sophomore who can beat you many ways, if not in a foot race, and is a puzzle to solve from a matchup standpoint. How Wilbekin and Anderson perform and set up their teammates will go a long way into determining which team advances to the Elite Eight. The respect they have for each other is immense. "He's a very good on-the-ball defender as I've been watching him on film all year," Anderson said of Wilbekin. "He's the SEC Player of the Year. He's a senior. He's been here before. "It's going to be a good matchup because he is lower to the ground than me, has great leverage on me. But I've just got to go out there and play my game." Wilbekin is looking forward to trying to counter his opposite and knows that task won't fall on him alone. "He's definitely a unique cover," Wilbekin said of Anderson. "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. If he gets a step he can finish over and around you. So we just have to build walls, help each other and try to keep him out of the lane." Wilbekin has picked up the Gators in wins against Albany and Pittsburgh, averaging 15.5 points, three assists, three rebounds and one turnover. His proclivity for hitting shots to close games (he scored 12 of their 14 points in a run that finished the Panthers) has become the stuff of legend in Gainesville. When Billy Donovan needs a bucket, you can bet the ball will be in Wilbekin's hands. Anderson, too, has been money in March. In the Bruins' victories against Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin, he averaged 11.5 points, 5.5 assists and seven rebounds. His three-pointer and free throw to cap an 8-0 first-half run helped slam the door early on the upstart Lumberjacks. Thursday's game could very well come down to which guard is best able to dictate pace and which defense can slow flow. Advantage Florida, largely due to Wilbekin. "We all want the ball to go in the basket," Donovan said. "I hope we score 120 (Thursday), but we haven't done it this year. I think we want to play up tempo. UCLA wants to play up tempo. There's things you have to do in playing up tempo. You have to take care of the ball. You don't want to give up easy baskets." Anderson does the brunt of his damage on the offensive end as a scorer and talented distributor of the ball. His defense is considered a weakness. "I don't know of anything that's been bigger for us," UCLA coach Steve Alford said of Anderson. "Back in April when we were hired we told Kyle … 'You're going to be our point guard, and we're going to right away present a lot of problems for people that are trying to match up to a 6-9 point guard.'
Next task for Florida, Scottie Wilbekin: Stop UCLA's Kyle Anderson
USA Today | Mar 27