- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s defense is going to be tested immediately in the NCAA tournament.
The Gators earned a No. 3 seed in the South region and will play its tournament opener against No. 14 seed Northwestern State, which entered the weekend as the nation’s top-scoring team. The game will be played Friday in Austin, Texas.
The Gators (26-7), who won the regular-season Southeastern Conference title but fell to Ole Miss in the SEC tournament, entered the weekend third nationally in scoring defense (53.2 points per game allowed). UF has allowed just one opponent to score more than 66 points since a 67-61 loss to Kansas State on Dec. 22, 2012.
Northwestern State (23-8) won the Southland Conference tournament. The Demons entered the weekend averaging 82.4 points per game, but that number dropped to 81.0 per game after the conference tournament.
The Demons have four players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by 6-foot-7 forward DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg). Northwestern also is pretty deep. They have 10 players averaging at least 15.5 minutes per game.
Should the Gators get by Northwestern State they face a potential third-round matchup with No. 6 seed UCLA (25-9), which plays No. 11 seed Minnesota. UF has won all three of its meetings against the Bruins, and all have come in the NCAA tournament. The Gators beat UCLA in the 2006 national championship game, in the 2007 national semifinals and in a third-round game in 2011.
If the Gators do advance to the Sweet 16, they could potentially face No. 2 seed Georgetown (25-6). That would be a rematch of the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard the USS Bataan at Mayport (Fla.) Naval Station that was never finished because of condensation on the court.