MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Florida defeated UCLA in the 2011 NCAA tournament, eliminating the Bruins in the second round.
Still, it was a Sweet 16 moment for current UCLA freshman guard Bryce Alford — his birthday was a couple of months earlier.
“I just got my driver’s license,” Alford recalled. “I was driving.”
To a high school kid from New Mexico, UCLA’s loss was far from monumental.
“I probably watched the game, or saw the score, whatever,” Alford said. “It didn’t have a whole lot of importance to me.”
It’s said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But does that apply to basketball?
UCLA (28-8) faces top-ranked Florida (34-2) in a South Regional semifinal Thursday at the FedEx Forum. This will be the fourth time the Bruins have played the Gators in the tournament, and college basketball’s most decorated team is still looking for a victory.
That hangs over the Bruins as they get ready for this matchup — at least during media sessions.
As for game preparation, there doesn’t seem to be too much fretting about the past.
In 2007, a year after the Bruins lost to Florida in the national title game, UCLA lost to the Gators in an NCAA semifinal. At that point Steve Alford was in the process of changing jobs, from Iowa to New Mexico
“I couldn’t tell you one thing about that game,” said Alford, now UCLA’s coach.
Yet, it’s something he has heard about — a lot —this week.
“We’ve got many more challenges getting ready for Florida,” Alford said. “That’s just one thing everyone is adding to it.”
It hasn’t led Alford to dig into the UCLA archive for old game tapes.
“I couldn’t tell you what took place,” Alford said. “All the tape I’m watching is on the current Gators.”
That takes enough gumption to get through. Who needs to relive Joakim Noah highlights when this Florida team is top-seeded overall in the tournament?
The Gators are big and physical and will try to wear UCLA down with relentless defensive pressure. They come into the game with the nation’s longest winning streak, 28 games.
“They have been in blowouts, but they have been in a lot of games where, inside five minutes, those kids find a way to win,” Alford said. “That makes them a dangerous team.”
Alford is unable to say whether the Gators are more dangerous than in 2011 … or 2007 … or 2006.
But story lines are what they are, and a big one this week has been UCLA and Florida history.
“We hear it, ‘UCLA has lost to Florida the past couple of times,’ ” forward David Wear said. “That doesn’t affect anyone in this room. No one was there for that.”
In 2011, Wear and his twin brother, Travis, had transferred from North Carolina and sat out the season as redshirts. But they were at home watching the game on television.
“I remember things about us beating Michigan State the game before,” Wear said. “I don’t remember much about the loss.”
Nor do Florida players have total recall. The Gators have four seniors who were freshmen on that team — Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Patric Young.
Wilbekin managed one memory: "[Erving Walker] made a pretty tough shot over one of their big men and got knocked down to the floor,” Wilbekin said. “That’s about it.”
Even Coach Billy Donovan offered a verbal shrug when asked about his history against UCLA in the tournament.
“You know, it’s hard because I know the jersey, the letters across it still say U-C-L-A,” Donovan said. “But for our team everything has really changed. We’ve got a totally different team. So I’m not so sure we would be able to take from any of those past games.”
Not even in 2006, when the Gators beat UCLA to give Donovan the national championship.
UCLA guard Kyle Anderson was in middle school at the time.
“It didn’t mean a lot to me,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t a UCLA fan at the time.”
He does remember Florida. “They were fun to watch,” Anderson said.
So the Bruins are left with this Florida team — heavy in experience, with four seniors, and light on weakness.
And what the Gators are left with is a UCLA team that has played loose and fast and well in the postseason.
“They try to beat their opponents up,” Anderson said of Florida. “They crash the glass heavy. They try to get you to do things you don’t want to do.”
Ah, much like that 2006 Florida team.
For whatever that’s worth.