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NCAA Tournament 2011: Florida Vs. UC Santa Barbara Second Round Preview

In this second round game, the No. 2 Florida Gators will be facing up against the underdog No. 15 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The game is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. tonight, and is being broadcast nationally on TBS with coverage by Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel.

Ever since the NCAA brackets were announced Sunday night, Florida has been receiving lots of coverage because of its high ranking. Many analysts feel as thought Florida's ranking was too high, as they recently lost to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Championship Game, and some have even gone so far as to claim Florida is "overrated" and will lose early in the tournament.

While it is true that Florida got exceptionally luck with their seeding, Florida is still the heavy favorites in today's game against UC Santa Barbara. Not only are they playing with a home court advantage, but they are also a much stronger team according to and Nate Silver ranks them as having a 95% chance of winning today.

UC Santa Barbara reached the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big West Tournament, and it is led by its top scorer and rebounder, Orlando Johnson. According to its coach, Bob Williams, the team knows exactly what it's up against:

Boy, someone said, what a great draw. I said, yeah,that would be a little bit like sitting in the doctor's office and someone telling you you have cancer, but it's a good cancer. No. Playing Florida in the second round is a great draw? It's not a great draw. They're really talented. There's just no comparison on this thing. Physically, they're a No. 2 seed, you could stretch it and say they're a No. 1 seed. I don't think physically they're going to be overmatched against anybody they play. They're a talented basketball team.

The Gators don't appear to be underestimating the Gauchos, though, with center Vernon Macklin calling them an "aggressive team" with great defense, and noting how the Gators have started off many recent games slow. 

I think we've got to come out more aggressive, looking to attack and looking to pass the ball to each other, just pass the ball harder in the first half than we do the second half.    

The Gators have expectations weighing on their shoulders, and it'll be interesting to see how they play in their first game since the SEC Championship loss.

For more coverage of the Gators, check out Alligator Army, SB Nation's Florida blog. Also, for all your bracket and prediction needs, check out SB Nation's printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.