“I think Florida is probably the better team, but if the ball bounces right, UCLA will win,” Tarkanian said. “If Florida is playing well, I don’t think anybody can beat them. But if Florida doesn’t play real well, and just plays real good, somebody can beat them.” Florida returned all its starters from a year ago, and many of the matchup issues that plagued UCLA a year ago still exist. The Bruins have no one who can individually match up with 6-foot-11 power forward Joakim Noah’s size and athleticism. Or with 6-9 wing Corey Brewer’s length. Or with the brute strength of 6-10, 245-pound center Al Horford, or his 6-9, 255-pound backup, Chris Richard. UCLA will use 6-5 Arron Afflalo on Brewer, who held Afflalo scoreless for the first 28minutes, 32seconds a year ago, and hope 6-8 power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute can limit the inside-outside game of Noah, who dominated last season’s title game with 16points, nine rebounds and a NCAA title-game record sixblocks. Then there is Horford, averaging 13.2 points and 9.2rebounds per game, point guard Taurean Green, averaging a team-high 13.3 points per game, and 3-point specialist Lee Humphrey, who shoots 45.5percent from beyond the arc. “This is a team that shoots 53percent from the field, 40percent from 3,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “They shoot 59.8 percent inside the 3-point line. They hold their opponents to 40 percent from the field. They out-(rebound) them by seven boards a game. They lead the country in terms of margin of victory at over 17points a game. ATLANTA – NBA riches were waiting, but friendships, a fancy-free lifestyle and an opportunity for college basketball immortality brought them back. They were, by far, the most talented team in the nation, and by the time the Final Four arrived they were either loved or hated, with no in between. They were Jerry Tarkanian’s last great UNLV team. The Runnin’ Rebels were undefeated, flashy, arrogant, and beyond all the glitz, they were downright good … until Duke shocked everyone by rebounding from a 30-point loss in the title game a year ago to beat UNLV 79-77 in the 1991 national semifinals before defeating Kansas in the title game. It is an eerily similar situation facing defending champion Florida. Although the Gators are not undefeated, coaches agree they are the most talented team, they carry a level of arrogance, and are widely despised because of their favored status. Florida, the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, plays UCLA in today’s second NCAA Tournament Final Four matchup at the Georgia Dome. Yes, the same UCLA program embarrassed 73-57 in last year’s national title game by the Gators. “They’re an unbelievable shot-blocking team. They’re a team that employs a number of different defenses, primarily man-to-man. They have an outstanding bench. “So you’re talking about one of the best teams in college basketball in a long time, with everybody having returned with the experience of already having won a national championship. It’s a daunting task. It’s a huge challenge.” It puts UCLA, which has a record 11national championships, in the uncustomary role of underdog at the Final Four. “Everybody is pretty much doubting us just because they have all five (starters) returning and they’re the team to beat,” UCLA point guard Darren Collison said. “And that’s fine for us. We can’t get caught up in that hype.” Tarkanian said his team, which won the 1990 title and had Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt in 1991, was beaten as much by complacency as by Duke. The Blue Devils had Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Thomas Hill, but that still wasn’t expected to be an obstacle for a team on a 45-game winning streak, and twowins away from the first back-to-back national championships since John Wooden’s UCLA teams won seven straight from 1967-73. However, Tarkanian said regular-season road wins at Michigan State, Louisville and Arkansas played a factor in the loss to Duke. In each instance, Tarkanian said he warned his team about what a rigid test they were facing, and each time the game’s outcome was decided well before the final buzzer. “After a while, the kids don’t believe you as much,” Tarkanian said. “I didn’t want to play Duke. I was hoping they would get beat in the Elite Eight. I didn’t want to play Duke because we beat them so bad the year before.” Of course, the Gators weren’t about to admit complacency on the eve of its rematch with UCLA, but that has been the knock on them much of the season. And when Florida went through a four-game funk late in the season, losing on the road at Vanderbilt, LSU and Tennessee, concerns about Florida’s drive surfaced. “I can see (UCLA) coming out, playing a lot harder than they ever played before because it’s big,” Richard said. “Not only are they in the Final Four, but they’re playing against a team that beat them in the championship game. If we come ready to play like we can and should, I think we’ll be OK.” And one more thing: UNLV was widely considered the top seed in the tournament. Duke, like UCLA, was a No. 2 seed. “Every time you see UCLA play somebody, you come away and say how bad the other team played,” Tarkanian said. “I thought Pitt played bad against UCLA. Then I saw Kansas, and I thought Kansas played bad against UCLA. After a while you start thinking all these teams are playing bad against UCLA, and it’s because UCLA is doing something great.” firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 713-3607160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!