Location: FedEx Forum – Memphis, TN [Capacity: 18,119]
Time: 6:09 p.m. EDT
TV: TBS (Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
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See the Game in Person: Elite Eight Tickets
|(1) FLORIDA GATORS||(11) DAYTON FLYERS|
|Head Coach: Billy Donovan||Head Coach: Archie Miller|
|Record: 35-2||Record: 26-10|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Atlantic 10|
|Roster | Schedule||Roster | Schedule|
Odds: Florida -10 | O/U: 133
HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS
» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 9-0 record overall with that seed winning the national title the previous time it held the ranking entering the tournament (2007).
» 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 Flyers earned the right to play in the Elite Eight by defeating (10) Stanford 82-72 in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
» Florida has played 57 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 41-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 45 of those 57 games under Donovan, going 34-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 4-4 in Elite Eight games all-time, 3-4 under Donovan with three-straight losses. The Gators, which are making their fourth consecutive appearance in the Elite Eight, have not advanced to the Final Four since 2007.
» Florida and Dayton have never met. The Gators are 12-9 all-time against current members of the Atlantic 10 and 2-0 against common opponents Ole Miss and Richmond this season. The Flyers defeated the Rebels went 1-1 against the Spiders.
» UF enters Saturday’s fifth-round game on a program-record 29-game winning streak with victories in 34 of its last 35 games.
» The Gators are 85-9 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.
» The Gators are 8-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» Florida is 24-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» The Gators 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 advancing to the Final Four with a victory on Saturday.
2014 NCAA TOURNAMENT – SOUTH REGION
In an effort to provide an additional perspective on the Florida-Dayton match-up, OnlyGators.com reached out to former Gators team manager Kyle Gilreath, who runs an interesting basketball blog Words on the Bounce and is an assistant basketball coach at Fort Myers High School. Gilreath compiled a scouting report similar to what UF uses to prepare for an opponent, which you can access via the link below.
NOT LOOKING BACK
Every Florida basketball fan is well aware of what has happened to the Gators in each of the last three seasons, but no one has felt the pain more than the players still on the team that have been at the losing end of those Elite Eight games. The fact that Florida is back in the same round, facing another tough opponent for the opportunity to advance to the Final Four is the exact reason why Donovan spent the entire season forcing the Gators to stop looking back and keep their focus ahead.
Whether it’s an individual possession going badly and Florida needing to get its head straight for the next one, or the Gators losing a contest on a second-chance buzzer beater on the road, Donovan has succeeded in having his players look at each opportunity to play as a one-game season. Win and move on.
“The lesson from the first two games was we didn’t finish the game because we had leads going into the downhill part of the game and other teams were just able to make better plays. Then the third game, I don’t know what it was. Didn’t come out playing the right way,” said senior center Patric Young when asked by a media member to reflect on Florida’s three Elite Eight losses.
“We’re not going to let the past haunt us because they have no bearing. … We’re going to do the best we can and make sure we go out there leaving no regrets. I think we’re just going to give it our best shot.”
Rather than focus on what it will feel like if Florida ends its 29-game winning streak and loses in this round of the tournament for the fourth-straight year, Young and his teammate are focused on the chance that is in front of them to become the first Gators squad since 2007 to advance to the Final Four.
“We’re really excited just to have the opportunity to be here,” he said. “Of course, at the beginning of the year, it’s our goal to make it here, and the fact that we have this opportunity, we’re not going to let the moment get bigger than us, staying locked in and focused on what we need to do.
“We’re just very blessed and fortunate to be a team that can put themselves in this opportunity to play for a Final Four again. Going to prepare and do the best we can, especially as a senior class, because it’s our last go round to make it to that next step. So just very grateful and thankful for the opportunity.”
FOCUSED ON A REBOUND PERFORMANCE
Young has put together his fair share of clunker games over his for years at UF, but he beat himself Thursday night against UCLA – when he got in major foul trouble and played just 20 minutes, only registering four points and three boards on the evening – and readily admitted that when he spoke with the media on Friday.
“It was frustrating because I do as much as I can to try to prepare to put myself in a position to have a good game. I’ve just got to flush it, learn from it, move forward, have a good practice today, respond well, and go into the next game having amnesia,” he said.
Young will need to forget the fact that the referees got in his head. Two foul calls that did not go his way flustered Young in the early going, as did a called travel that did not appear to be accurate, and his frustration continued to build as the game went on.
For a guy that had his first double-double of the season (10 points, 10 rebounds) in the second-round game against Albany and struggled shooting in the third round against Pittsburgh (3-for-11) but came down with eight boards and four blocks, Young needs to realize that he is an important cog in the Florida machine.
“I would have liked to have seen him handle that situation, to be honest with you, a lot better than he did. I thought he got way, way too wrapped up in trying to explain that he didn’t travel, explain that he didn’t foul,” said Donovan.
“In reality, those calls are not going to be changed or overturned. … He needs to move on and play. That, to me, is the greatest sign of maturity, growth is when you can really still stay focused and play when maybe you’re going through an internally frustrating moment. Obviously, Patric wanted to be out there. He picked up two fouls. The two fouls he picked up were not his fault. … We just need him to come and be that defender that he’s been all year for us.”
CHASING GREATNESS, OVERCOMING ADVERSITY
The Gators will once again need to apply their season’s two primary mottos on Saturday when they take on the Flyers. First, “chasing greatness,” which has come into play the second half of the season as Florida’s winning streak built and numerous program record fell. UF has already proven to be great but even with all of its accolades in the rear view mirror, there is so much more this team can achieve.
“’Chasing greatness’ is just being locked in every single moment, not worrying about the past, not worrying about the future, just trying to dominate every possession and be our best,” explained sophomore guard Michael Frazier II.
Added Young: “When we talk about ‘chasing greatness,’ we’re talking about just the goal at hand, the opportunity of what we can achieve, what we set our goals for in the beginning of the year. In the moment, we can always chase greatness, whether it’s being great on a possession, striving to be great a whole game, holding a team to our standard defensively. Just having that mindset, really just change the way that you approach everything, especially when you’ve got a team of guys that are all bought in and locked into that concept and that theme.”
At some point on Saturday, whether the Gators are facing a deficit, are marred in foul trouble or are simply on the wrong end of an extended scoring run, they will also be forced to look within themselves for the strength and resolve to push forward and do what it takes to win. Florida has been able to do that all season long but against a streaking Dayton team with nothing to lose and everything to gain, having that mindset will be more important than ever for UF.
“Recognition goes to Coach Donovan, first and foremost. He’s just been able to challenge us and make sure that we are able to take [adversity] on,” explained Young. “He puts us in scenarios in practice every single day to face it. Even if we don’t handle it well, or we do handle it well, he’ll let us know, and we are very appreciative of that.
“I think the fact that we have four seniors that have been through it for so long helps us to just stay connected, really know that what it’s about when we’re in those moments. It’s about moving on to the next thing, not worrying about the scoreboard, just taking it one possession at a time, and fighting and clawing your way to the final buzzer to make sure you’re on top.”
IT’S NOT A FAIRY TALE
It may be improbable that the Flyers, an 11 seed, and the Gators, the No. 1 overall team in the nation, are squaring off on Saturday in the Elite Eight. It may also be a great story, one the media can drum up as a “David vs. Goliath” matchup simply due to the conferences and regular-season successes of the two programs. But Saturday’s game will not be a fairy tale, at least not for Florida which is preparing for Dayton the exact same way it would any opponent – with respect, admiration and a desire to win.
“That whole [‘Cinderella’] terminology is not given by us, it’s given by a lot of other people. We don’t look at anything like that,” Donovan said.
“I think those make great headlines and people talk about that, but if you want to sit down and really, really evaluate Dayton’s team or even George Mason back then or whoever it’s been, Florida Gulf Coast, I mean, they’re good teams. Dayton is a very, very good team. You don’t do what they’ve done the first three games beating Ohio State, beating Syracuse and then beating Stanford if you’re not a good team.
“So I think that people try to create that kind of perception, and it’s really an untrue perception. They are an outstanding team. They went through a very, very difficult time early in their conference schedule, and they’ve become a great team.”
Not surprisingly, Donovan’s players have the exact same mindset as their coach and echoed his thoughts almost exactly.
“We try to play every game the same way and with the same intensity regardless of who we’re playing. What we try to do is not focus on who we’re playing but focus on us and focus on how we need to play in order to advance,” said senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin.
Young agreed. “Our focus going into whatever game it may be isn’t just on the opponent. Of course, we look at our scouting and make sure we’re prepared, but we know that we’re striving for greatness, and we have to go into each and every game just with that mindset, focused on taking whatever challenges are thrown at us.
“Even if the team may be a ‘Cinderella,’ I mean, that doesn’t have any bearing on what happens when the ball gets tipped up. The best team’s going to win. We know Dayton is a good team. Those teams we played in the past were good teams as well. What happened in the past has no bearing on what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on the Flyers’ bench, which could pose some problems considering how deep it runs: “They’re going to play 11 players. I think the thing that makes them unique and special in a lot of ways is they’ve gotten great production from a lot of different people, a lot of different points in time in the game. Whether it’s been offensive rebounds, it’s been a loose ball, hustle play, somebody knocking down a three, somebody making a steal and getting them out on the break. They’ve got a lot of versatility. They’ve got a lot of depth, and they use their depth to their advantage.”
» Dayton guard Jordan Sibert on what it will take to beat the Gators: “Very tough team. They’re definitely a strong team, physical team. Their experience is definitely great, great coached team. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. But it’s not really about them. It’s more about us and what we can bring to the table. As long as we stick to our game plan and stick to what we’ve been doing all year, and that’s sticking together and believing in one another, then we should be fine.”
» Miller on whether his brother, Arizona coach Sean Miller (who has played Florida twice recently) has helped him game plan for the Gators: “He doesn’t talk to me right now. He’s not helping me. He’s trying to do his thing. But Florida, you see them a lot on television. You understand kind of what they’re about. You understand kind of their pedigree right now. They’re the number one overall seed for a reason. They’ve won 29 games in a row. I don’t know who can help me, to be honest with you.”
PROGRAM RECORDS SET, EXTENDED THIS SEASON
» Record to start a season (overall): 35-2
» Regular-season record (SEC): 18-0
» Winning streak (overall): 29 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.
Wins at an SEC school
1. Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) – 875
2. Billy Donovan (Florida) – 450
Most Wins by a Senior Class
1. Casey Prather / Scottie Wilbekin / Will Yeguete / Patric Young (2014) – 119
1. Walter Hodge – 151
2. Patric Young – 148
3. Kenny Boynton – 145
4. Erving Walker – 144
5. Chandler Parsons / Alex Tyus – 142
7. Scottie Wilbekin – 141
7. Dan Werner / Chris Richard – 141
29. Vernon Delancy – 1,291
30. Patric Young – 1,276
5. Dwayne Davis – 160
6. Patric Young – 155
Field Goal Percentage (minimum 500 attempts)
6. Ronnie Williams – .585
7. Udonis Haslem – .584
8. David Lee – .581
9. Patric Young – .578
10. Casey Prather – .570
Dunks (unofficial statistic)
3. David Lee – 155
4. Alex Tyus – 146
5. Patric Young – 141
4. Malcom Cesare – 361
5. Patric Young – 357
7. Eddie Shannon – 3,676
8. Walter Hodge – 3,587
9. Patric Young – 3,581
5. Vernon Delancy – 427
6. Greg Williams – 423
7. Scottie Wilbekin – 415
6. Andrew Moten – 165
7. Justin Hamilton – 164
8. Kenyan Weaks – 163
9. Scottie Wilbekin – 162