Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 4:10 p.m. EDT (30 minutes after the conclusion of Colorado-Pittsburgh)
TV: TBS (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy)
SiriusXM: 93/192 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
See the Game in Person: Florida Gators tickets
|(1) FLORIDA GATORS||(16) ALBANY GREAT DANES|
|Head Coach: Billy Donovan||Head Coach: Will Brown|
|Record: 32-2||Record: 19-14|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: America East|
|Roster | Schedule||Roster | Schedule|
Odds: Florida -22 | O/U: 121.5
HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS
» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history (2007), holding a 6-0 record and national title the previous time it held this ranking entering the tournament.
» No. 1 seeds are 116-0 against No. 16 seeds since 1989. Only 14 of those games have been decided with final margins of victory in single digits.
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Great Danes earned the right to play in the Round of 64 after defeating Mount St. Mary’s 71-64 in first game of the First Four on Tuesday.
» Florida has played 54 games in 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 38-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 42 of those 54 games under Donovan, going 31-11 in those contests over 14 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 14-5 in Round of 64 games and has not been knocked out in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2010. In its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gators have won back-to-back national championships (2006-07) and advanced to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13).
» Florida is 1-0 all-time against Albany, winning 83-64 in Gainesville, FL on Nov. 10, 2005 in the lone meeting between the programs. The Gators have never lost to an AEC team (6-0, 5-0 under Donovan).
» UF enters Thursday’s second-round game on a program-record 26-game winning streak with victories in 31 of its last 32 games.
» The Gators are 83-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» Florida is 5-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 22-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» Florida won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and can set a school record for most wins in a season by winning four games and advancing to the Final Four.
2014 NCAA TOURNAMENT – SOUTH REGION
CLOSE TO HOME, FAR FROM COMFORTABLE
A benefit of being the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament is the ability to play your first two games as close to your home court as possible. In Florida’s case, the Gators only had to take a 112-mile trip to arrive at the Amway Center in UF-friendly Orlando.
“It’s always really cool when we have an opportunity to stay in Florida,” said senior center Patric Young. “It would be kind of a neutral court, but we know we have a lot of Gators that are going to be out here. It’s going to be kind of like a home game because I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of orange and blue out there.”
Seniors point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Will Yeguete both agreed that they were happy to be playing so close to Gainesville but echoed Young’s sentiment that playing on a home-like court can only do so much good.
“None of that stuff matters,” Young said, “it’s what happens inside the lines. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to do our job when the ball gets tipped up.”
Freshman reserve point guard Kasey Hill was revealed to have turf toe after an examination on Wednesday and ruled questionable for Thursday’s game. Read more about his status by clicking here.
NOT THE SAME GATORS
While Florida may be taking things one game at a time and not looking ahead, the Gators have to have in the back of their minds the fact that the program has been eliminated in the Elite Eight in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Young and Wilbekin acknowledged that fact but also strongly indicated that UF does not view itself as the same team as three, two or even one year ago.
“The teams we’ve been on the last three years, they haven’t been as connected and haven’t had as much chemistry as this team’s has had. We really enjoy playing with one another, and I think when we get if we get that opportunity – if we’re blessed to have that chance to go to the Final Four, I think each and every guy is going to make sure we lay it out on the line and come ready to go,” said Young. “All we can do is just make sure that we go out there and when we walk off the court make sure we have no regrets and give it our best shot.”
Co-signed Wilbekin: “This year’s team is different than all the other teams I’ve been on here. I think we have more leadership and more experience than any other team, and as far as what happened those last three years, I don’t know.
“And to be honest, I don’t really care because I’m not really we’re not thinking about that. Nobody on our team or on the coaching staff is thinking about the last couple of years. We’re just focused on this game. It might be cliché, but that’s all we think about is the next game, and that’s Albany, and we have to win that game to advance to the next round.”
“THERE’S NO FINER PERSON I’VE MET IN MY LIFE THAN BILLY DONOVAN”
The love and affection between Donovan and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, his coach and mentor as a basketball player (at Providence, New York) and assistant (at Kentucky), is well-known and seemingly ever-growing.
Though their teams will not go head-to-head this weekend as they are on opposite sides of the bracket, both coaches are in Orlando preparing to play second- and potentially third-round games. As such, Donovan and Pitino were once again asked about each other on Wednesday with the elder statesman of the duo lauding the relative youngster with a compliment that came straight from the heart.
“There’s no finer person I’ve ever met in my life like Billy Donovan,” said Pitino. “There’s no finer coach I’ve met in my life than Billy Donovan. There’s no better assistant or player than Billy Donovan. He’s just the most special human being I’ve ever encountered in my lifetime.
“He never changed. Success hasn’t changed him, adversity doesn’t change him. I’m just proud to have coached him, to have worked with him and to witness everything he’s accomplishing in life. As a husband, as a parent, he’s just in a class by himself. There’s nobody like Billy the Kid in this world that I’ve encountered in my lifetime.”
Eyes still dry?
“Billy the Kid to me is one of the special people in my life,” explained Pitino when beginning his praise of Donovan. “Peyton Siva and Billy Donovan were the two most special people I’ve ever coached because I could never find a character flaw in them.
“And now I remember Christine [Donovan], his wife’s 40th birthday invitation, and it read ‘Billy the Kid no longer, come join us at his birthday party.’ He’s still a kid because he still has the passion of someone just playing the game.”
Donovan was asked a less emotional question about Pitino with a reporter wondering what it was about the Cardinals’ head coach that has allowed his former assistants to succeed on their own when taking top jobs.
He explained: “As a young assistant coach, your development as a coach has everything to do with the head coach, and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned becoming a head coach, it is the responsibility I have to my assistants.
“Now, what does that mean? When I was 24 years old, I was forced to scout. I was forced to coach. I was forced to teach. I was forced to break down film. I was forced to make decisions. There was not any area of coaching when I was with Coach Pitino that I was not exposed to, and it was challenging, it was demanding, and it made me better.
“I really felt even though I was 28 years old and took over at Marshall, I didn’t feel like I was unprepared, or ‘Geez, this is overwhelming.’ Not at all. And I think that had everything to do with Coach Pitino in terms of preparing us, and I hope in some way what he did for me I can do the same thing for my guys that are assistant coaches and move on to head coaching positions – get them prepared as much as I can. Our assistants are very active in practice. They’re very active with our players. They’re active in individual instruction. Their scouting reports, presenting in front of the team, all those things. And I think it starts with Coach Pitino. That’s something I definitely carried on that I learned from him when I was working for him.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan, who has sounded under the weather seemingly for weeks, admitted Wednesday that he has a continuous cold that he is having a problem kicking.
» Donovan on the quick turnaround and getting Florida ready for Albany: “The biggest challenge is getting the information to our players in a fashion that’s not overwhelming, not so consuming, but makes sense to them, is kind of precise, and areas that we need to do a good job as it relates to running offense against them, defending them, their personnel, those kind of things. Our staff has had more than enough time to watch film over a period of time starting on Sunday night. The biggest challenge comes, our team didn’t know until [Tuesday] around maybe 9:00 who we’d be playing, and then you kind of start the process of getting the players familiar with the next opponent.”
» Brown, a self-professed “basketball junkie,” on what makes the Gators so good: “They’re the best team in the country. What’s so impressive about Florida is they bring it every single night. When they have when they don’t play well, they still win. I do not believe that they’ve lost a game this year with their starting five intact. … They’ve won 26 games in a row, undefeated in the SEC, tremendous accomplishments, Hall of Fame coach, just very impressed with all the film that I’ve watched. … They do it on both ends and they do it very unselfishly. Coach Donovan has those guys understanding their roles, embracing their roles. I’ve been very impressed with Florida, and it’s the best team that I’ve seen this year.”
PROGRAM RECORDS SET, EXTENDED THIS SEASON
» Record to start a season (overall): 32-2
» Regular-season record (SEC): 18-0
» Winning streak (overall): 26 games
» Regular-season wins: 29
» SEC regular-season wins (single season): 18
» SEC road wins (consecutive): 9
» Home wins (overall, consecutive): 32
» Home wins (SEC, consecutive): 18
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Young and Wilbekin are steadily inching their way up many of Florida’s all-time lists. Earlier this season, Young became just the 50th player in school history to score 1,000 career points.
Wins at an SEC school
1. Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) – 875
2. Dale Brown (LSU) – 448
3. Billy Donovan (Florida) – 447
Most Wins by a Senior Class
1. Walter Hodge (2009) – 117
2. Casey Prather / Scottie Wilbekin / Will Yeguete / Patric Young (2014) – 116
1. Walter Hodge – 151
2. Patric Young – 145
2. Kenny Boynton – 145
4. Erving Walker – 144
5. Chandler Parsons / Alex Tyus – 142
7. Dan Werner / Chris Richard – 141
9. Scottie Wilbekin – 138
29. Vernon Delancy – 1,291
31. Patric Young – 1,255
5. Dwayne Davis – 160
6. Patric Young – 151
Field Goal Percentage (minimum 500 attempts)
5. Al Horford – .588
6. Ronnie Williams – .585
7. Udonis Haslem – .584
8. Patric Young – .582
Dunks (unofficial statistic)
3. David Lee – 155
4. Alex Tyus – 146
5. Patric Young – 137
4. Malcom Cesare – 361
5. Patric Young – 349
8. Walter Hodge – 3,587
9. Andrew DeClercq – 3,503
10. Patric Young – 3,502
6. Greg Williams – 423
7. Andrew Moten – 411
8. Scottie Wilbekin – 406
6. Andrew Moten – 165
7. Justin Hamilton – 164
8. Kenyan Weaks – 163
9. Scottie Wilbekin – 159
9. Erving Walker – 159