While FGCU soaked up well-deserved praise, Florida worked on getting better in Dallas

By Adam Silverstein
March 28, 2013

The three-seed Florida Gators and 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have been rightfully contrasted in a myriad of ways but what is most pertinent to Friday’s Sweet 16 showdown at Cowboys Stadium is how the teams have been preparing for the game since the first weekend of 2013 NCAA Tournament action concluded last Sunday.

After making history as the first 15-seed in the history of the tournament to advance past the round of 32, the Eagles immediately returned to home to a huge ovation from a student body that may not have known it had a basketball team a week ago. Florida Gulf Coast’s campus was swarmed with local and national media and the team complied with most requests by making its coaching staff and players available to all comers. There was also a now-infamous pep really held as the newly-passionate students chanted an expletive at their upcoming opponents on national television.

“It’s been overwhelming,” head coach Andy Enfield said on Thursday, “but we’ve been trying to do everything we can as a team, as a program, to not only handle the media requests but to promote the program and the school itself. And our players have done an amazing job of that.”

“We took Monday off,” he continued, “and it took us a day and a half to recover mentally and physically. So Tuesday’s practice was just OK. [Wednesday] was better and [Thursday] was better. But it’s all business now. We have a game [Friday] to play. And I’m very appreciative of the job the media has done. We’ve met some terrific people over the last week and a half, two weeks. And I really give the media credit for being so enthusiastic and professional on their coverage of us.”


Junior forward Chase Fieler agreed with his coach’s estimation. “It was a busy week, just with the attention and the media being around. And the students were excited about what’s going on and talking to us,” he said. “Between with the schoolwork and the media and everyone trying to talk to us, it was very exciting. We had a great pep rally. A lot of support came out of there. We were very busy. We were constantly doing something and just exciting. You can’t really describe the atmosphere on campus.”

UF had the exact opposite experience over the last four days. Rather than return home to Florida, the Gators traveled from Austin, TX to Arlington, TX on Monday, watched film and picked up where they left off in the gym on Tuesday. A team with one of the best pedigrees left in the tournament, Florida barely got any attention over the last week and instead spent its free time getting better as a team.

“We didn’t even go back to the campus, we came straight here from Austin,” senior guard Kenny Boynton said Thursday. “Pretty much for us it’s been a business trip. Me and [Erik] Murphy and Mike [Rosario], this is our fourth NCAA Tournament. We know the preparation [required] for it, so we’ve just been preparing.”

“We’ve been focusing on them and preparing to play them,” Murphy concurred. “And like Kenny said, we didn’t go back to campus. We just have been at the hotel and practicing and staying off our feet and trying to rest.”

Because the Gators have an academic adviser that travels with the team, returning to Gainesville, FL was not a necessity this week. Head coach Billy Donovan explained Wednesday that junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin took a test online after the Minnesota game and other players have been working on papers that they plan to submit to their professors after the team eventually returns to campus.

“It’s really good,” Donovan said of how staying on the road can affect a team’s chemistry. “It’s really good just because when you’re in a city – and I always felt like this when you took a trip overseas – when you’re going to a different country that’s a foreign-speaking country, they have to rely on each other. And the same thing can be said when you’re going to a different city. It’s not like they’re walking into a different city and they have a bunch of friends here. So I think that the bond they feel on the road when they’re away like this gets stronger and stronger, the relationship part.

“The idea and understanding that this is towards the end of the year, I think those things are always good for your basketball team when you’re spending time like this because we have to spend a lot of time together. I’m fortunate as a coach that our guys have really good relationships. Our guys like being with each other. This is not a group at all that, once practice ends, they can’t wait to get away from each other. These guys spend a lot of time with each other and I think a trip like this only enhances their relationships.”

Florida will certainly have the chance to prove it is a closer and better prepared team on Friday as it looks to crush the dreams of yet another Cinderella.

5 Comments

  1. Timmy T says:

    Take care of business tomorrow night fellas. Crush the upstarts and move on.

  2. Ken (CA) says:

    “the Eagles immediately returned to home to a huge ovation from a student body that may not have known it had a basketball team a week ago.”

    Best line you have had in a long time Adam, love it!

    Great to see the business-like approach, shows they are really serious this year to move on. And thanks for answering the studying question, that has always been a curiosity for me as to how they handled it.

    Even with and before the FCGU story, the Gators have been flying under the radar most of the tourney, even last weekend when they won, the Gameday show didnt even mention them or show highlights of the game. I think that is good for them, getting no attention and just taking care of business.

  3. Joe says:

    If we don’t beat FGCU we should never ever be consider an elite basketball program. Billy has been coaching UF longer than there has even been a FGCU. We have more final 4 appearances than FGCU has years in D1. UF pays Billy 22 times what FGCU pays Enfield. We have had 5 days to prepare for FGCU while they have been home partying their butts off. Losing to FGCU would be a bigger embarrassment than the egg we laid in the Sugar Bowl or the drubbing we took from Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. If we lose, Billy needs to look in the mirror and rethink his entire approach to coaching. In short, we should and need to crush FGCU, No excuses. Losing tonight is not an option.

  4. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Team chemistry is a very real intangible, along with humility and sharing the ball. Hoping this team displays the same level as the ’04’s in both areas. Undoubtedly factors in the B2B Nat’l Championships!

  5. Gators22 says:

    Shades of George Mason in 2006.

    Historically, Donovan does his best coaching in Sweet 16 games.

    I can only recall one loss (Gonzaga in 1999).

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