NCAA Bracket Preview, Predictions: No. 2 Florida Vs. No. 15 UC Santa Barbara

A loss to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament finals didn't stop Florida from receiving a No. 2 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket on Selection Sunday as the committee likely took the Gators body of work, which included the SEC West regular season crown, into account. Florida draws Big West Tournament champion UC Santa Barbara, a matchup that should cause the Gators little trouble. On Thursday at 6:50 p.m., Florida and UC Santa Barbara tip it off in Tampa, live on TBS.

The Gauchos, one of the greater nicknames in college basketball, come in as a heavy underdog after stumbling through the Big West regular season schedule, finishing at 8-8. But in March, it's all about getting hot at the right time, and UC Santa Barbara did just that, winning three games in three days, capped by a win over Long Beach State, to take home the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Florida, on the other hand, has been tough to peg at times. Wins over Kansas State, Xavier and Kentucky were great, but losses to Central Florida, Jacksonville and South Carolina are head-scratching. Florida did finish the season with only three SEC losses -- to the Gamecocks, Mississippi State and a road game at Kentucky -- a feat in itself.  

Star Watch: Looking at Florida, I find it impossible to pick one. So let's go with three: Chandler Parsons, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker. The three boast nearly the same offensive efficiency numbers and all use upwards of 20 percent of the Gators' possessions. 

For UC Santa Barbara, the offense runs through Orlando Johnson. The 6-foot-5 junior uses 32.3 percent of the Gauchos' possessions and takes 34.8 percent of the shots while on the floor, all with an offensive rating of 112.8.

Prediction: Florida rolls in this one, 75-60.

More Reading: For more on the Gators, head over to Alligator Army.

Need help picking your bracket? Check out SB Nation's full 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket predictions, picking every game of March Madness, or our region by region breakdowns for the East Region, West Region, Southeast Region, and Southwest Region.

Did your team miss the 2011 NCAA Tournament? We have you covered: check out the 2011 NIT bracket.

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