Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Routs UCLA to Win National Championship

Pat Forde has an excellent roundup of Florida’s trouncing of UCLA to win the NCAA Tournament.

For five straight years, Florida’s marches through March were short and not terribly sweet. The Gators were always in the NCAA Tournament — and always back out after the first weekend. This time, Florida stayed until the end, and in the process, scorched Bracketville to the ground. The final embers were still smoking here late Monday, after the Gators put a Zippo to UCLA’s britches, 73-57.

The Bruins might own dances past, but this waltz was all blue and orange. A program that couldn’t finish became a juggernaut that couldn’t be beaten, and only once could even be threatened. Florida won its games in this dance by 26, 22, four, 13, 15 and a sweet 16 points. The 16-point average margin of victory was the highest by a champion in five years.

The onslaught was capped off by an unprecedented title-game beatdown of a higher seed. The last time a lower seed won on the Biggest of All Mondays by this many points? Never, at least since they started publicly seeding teams in 1979. “I felt like we were going to win this game by a large margin when we came in,” versatile wingman Corey Brewer said. “Nobody gave us any respect all year. We proved it. We took our respect.”

Actually, respect for the Gators mushroomed over the past three weeks, to the point that they were the common-sense favorite entering the Final Four. But they had to endure the America’s Team talk before playing George Mason, then got an earful on Sunday about how were they ever going to penetrate that UCLA defense.

“All our guys heard about for the last day and a half was how great defensively UCLA is,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t think our basketball team got a whole lot of credit about how good they are defensively.”

They get all the credit now, after turning this Final Four into a crashing anticlimax to a riveting tournament.

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