Patric Young, Florida's 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior bruiser, was named 2013-14 Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year. But his teammates say their defense starts with Scottie Wilbekin in the backcourt.
Wilbekin, a 6-2 senior point guard, has been compared to Ohio State's Aaron Craft for his defensive tenacity along the perimeter. Wilbekin was named SEC player of the year and not only because he averaged 13 points and 3.7 assists per game for the nation's best team.
Growing up in Gainesville not far from the Florida campus and learning the game from his father, who was a coach, Wilbekin said he was always a defensive-minded player.
“We always did defensive drills,” Wilbekin told the Tampa Bay Times. “I guess it was just ingrained in me from a young age. When I came to Florida, I saw that's where I would be needed most and I could get my playing time. I want to shut everybody down.”
Florida is the overall No. 1 seed and went through the SEC undefeated.Favorite: Florida
The Gators (32-2) may be the only team in the tournament field without a weakness that can be exploited. Florida has four scorers averaging double figures, rebounders galore, depth and it vies with Arizona as the best defensive team in the country. And, oh, yes, coach Billy Donovan has won two national championships.
Just as important, Florida has experienced, battle-tested players who have reached the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight the past three years. In era when talented players on top teams often leave early for the NBA, the makeup of this Gators lineup resembles that of a mid-major, with four senior starters.Sleeper: UCLA
The newly crowned Pac-12 Tournament champion is a No. 4 seed that has enough talent to beat any team in the tournament. Witness the Bruins upending the West Regional's No. 1 seed, Arizona, 75-71, in the Pac-12 finale Saturday night.
UCLA can score from every spot on the floor, and has a sixth man, 6-5 freshman guard Zach LaVine, who is considered a potential NBA first-round draft choice this summer.Bracket Breakdown
The overall No. 1 seed is supposed to get the easiest path to the Final Four, right? It sure doesn't appear the committee set it up that way.
Florida could get a challenging second game against either No. 8 seed Colorado or No. 9 seed Pittsburgh. And this is a bracket that includes formerly top-ranked Syracuse as the No. 3 seed. Kansas is seeded No. 2, and the Jayhawks may be as talented as anybody, especially if 7-foot freshman center Joel Embiid (back) returns from an injury for the second weekend of the tournament.
And seeds 4-7, with UCLA, VCU, Ohio State and New Mexico, are exceptionally strong for those slots.Upset Alert: Stanford over New Mexico
A No. 10 seed, Stanford has the size and athleticism to match up favorably with seventh-seeded New Mexico, which upset San Diego State on Saturday to win the Mountain West Tournament.
The Lobos have three potential NBA players in 6-4 guard Kendall Williams, 6-9 forward and MW player of the year Cameron Bairstow and 7-foot center Alex Kirk. But New Mexico will be feeling the pressure after getting upset by Harvard last year in its first NCAA Tournament game.
The Lobos can't afford to play tight against a Cardinal team that features dynamic point guard Chasson Randle and a bevy of talented big men.