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March 31, 2007
Head to head: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 UCLA
Billy Donovan called it a "new set of elements."
Those elements will separate this meeting between Florida and UCLA from their meeting a year ago in the national championship game, which Donovan's Gators won 73-57.
"This is a totally new experience for us," Donovan said. "This is a new set of circumstances."
Despite returning nearly all of its roster from that team a year ago, among those new circumstances is the increased media attention that follows a team seeking to be the first since Duke in 1992 to repeat as national champions.
Another is the expectations. A year ago, Florida - unranked to start the season - was a Final Four surprise. This year, anything less would be disappointment.
And if those weren't enough, another circumstance entered the fray. Florida has a new set of distractions with all the Donovan-to-Kentucky rumors that the coach and team must address on a nearly daily basis.
All three are back, but UCLA is looking for a new result.
"We watched the tape and there are some things – just about everything – we could have done better," UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
Donovan says his team is different than the team that defeated UCLA last year. Howland thinks there's a better description.
"When he uses the word different, I would use the word better," Howland said. "They're better than they were a year ago."
UCLA will hope it is better as well.
Florida will play UCLA at 8:47 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta. The game will be televised on CBS.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.