Bumped. A local perspective from a Bruin in Gatorland. GO BRUINS. - BN Eds.
I will not be able to take it any longer if UCLA does not.
Frankly, I am sick of Gators (friends, strangers, a$$holes) dissing UCLA whenever I wear my UCLA gear in Central Florida (which is most of the time when I'm not in professional attire). I remind them of 10 in 12 years and I always invite them to come out to the Rose Bowl for a home and away football series (their last FB road game outside "the south," not including bowl games, was against Syracuse in '91, 24 years ago--they lost). I have a personal, sorted history with UCLA v. Gator basketball and its high time to save some freaking face.
Looking back to our first Final Four run under CBH in 05-06, UCLA was a #2 seed and Florida was a #3. Florida hadn't impressed me much that season but they got hot at the end of the year, although they struggled in either the first or second round game against inferior competition and I (wrongly) wrote them off as low hanging fruit. Both teams made it to the Final Four, where we destroyed a Big Baby-led LSU team. Throttling an SEC team was another data point against Florida. I was (over)confident, so I invited a bunch of friends to the house to watch the game. About 15 people, most of whom were Gators. Huge mistake. We got boat raced and I was pissed. Tough to be a good host under those circumstances.
The next season, UCLA made the Final Four in Atlanta, a hop, skip, and a jump away from Orlando. An old UCLA fraternity brother living overseas, whom I had not seen in years, called me with an offer to meet him in the ATL. Even though I had a 4 month old daughter, my awesome wife relented and I was in. Problem was, so were a lot of my Gator friends. I didn't travel with them, mostly hanging with my UCLA buddy, but made the mistake of agreeing to Morton's steakhouse reservations after the game (it's Morton's, after all!). We all know how the game played out. AA was a non-factor due to several questionable fouls early on. The Bruins played better than the prior season, but it was still not enough. Bittersweet all over again. And the Morton's steak, although delicious, did not remove the bad taste from my mouth.
In 2010-2011, the Bruins were sent to Tampa for the sub-regionals. UCLA was a 7 seed and Florida was an underwhelming 2 seed. Josh Smith was playing his best basketball as a Bruin. I trolled my Gator fans to see if anyone wanted to join me in Tampa. Not one of those BANDWAGONING SONS OF BITCHES made the 90 minute trip. I drove over myself, stayed with FSU friends, and went to the games solo. UCLA almost blew a huge lead against Michigan State and Florida beat UC Santa Barbara in the first round, setting up a match-up in the round of 32. UCLA stayed with the Gators the whole time, falling by single digits, 73-65, as one of Florida's senior guards could not miss from 3 (notice a pattern of Billy Donovan recruiting guys who stay to play for 4 years?). I had just switched phones so I had not synched my contacts and, immediately, after the game, I received an acerbic text from someone (one of those Gators who had not made the trip) ripping UCLA and talking smack. I had no idea who it was and I went off on the guy in a return text. It turned out to be a pretty good friend of mine and we both apologized later. I came to find out that later than everyone he was with told him not to send the text, because I am who I am, and I needed a bit of a cooling off period before being able to take something like that in stride.
This Thursday, I will be in a Gator free zone. I am turning off my phone and will be watching with my daughter, and perhaps with my UNC buddy who now has nothing better to do and hates the Gators worse than I do. Maybe I'll invite some FSU buddies over.
The point of all of this is, g*dammit, we need to beat these bastards. They are good, very well-coached (IMHO, Donovan is a top-5 coach right now and will be a HOFer), present huge match-up problems for us, and probably should win. They are confident, as are their fans, who are paying me lip-service right now ("Oh, your big guard will give us match-up problems"). My head tells me that they will beat us--I have them beating us in my bracket. EFF MY BRACKET.
One other thing, I do not think the Gators will be in Memphis in droves. Everyone came to Orlando, and, it stands to reason, that they might take this weekend off with the hope of booking a trip to Texas for the Final Four. It might not be much of a home court advantage, even if Bruins do not show up either. There will be a lot of Dayton fans and a lot of neutrals . . . in Tennessee . . . where the Gators are satan.
C'mon, Bruins. BEAT THE GATORS. BEAT THE GATORS. For the love of Pete, BEAT THE GATORS!!! (My sanity is in the balance).