2012 NCAA Tournament: (7) Florida vs. (10) UVA

Location: CenturyLink Center – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 17,260]
Time: 2:10 p.m. (ET)

TV: TNT/TNTHD
SiriusXM: 74/193
Online Video: TNT.tv
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(7) FLORIDA GATORS (10) VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Tony Bennett
Record: 23-10 Record: 22-9
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3.5; O/U 122

KNOW THE OPPONENT

No. 10-seed Virginia ended the regular season with the fourth-best record in the ACC (9-7) as well as a marquee victory over then-No. 15 Michigan on Nov. 29. The Cavaliers boasted a 12-game winning streak spanning nearly two full months before falling by three on the road to then-No. 6 Duke on Jan. 12. UVA only averages 63.1 points per game but have held 26 of 31 opponents below that total. Forward Mike Scott leads the way for Virginia with 18.1 points (on 56.2 percent shooting) and 8.4 rebounds per game. He has size and strength (6’8, 237 lbs.) and is dangerous in the paint, even more so because he hits free throws at an 81 percent clip.

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and 12th under Donovan. The Gators are 29-12 all time in the event (25-9 under Donovan) with two national titles in three championship game appearances and four trips to the Final Four.
» Virginia is making its 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament but first under Bennett. The Cavaliers, with two Final Four appearances and five trips to the Elite Eight all-time, have not participated in March Madness since 2007 .
» UF’s men’s basketball team will play its first-ever game in Omaha, NE.
» Florida is on a six-game winning streak against ACC opponents and are 19-9 against the conference since Donovan took over the program.
» All five of the Gators’ normal starters are averaging 10.0 points per game or more.
» Florida has made a three in 684 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators have registered a school record and nation-high in three-pointers this season with 328 over 33 games. UF’s 9.9 treys per game is No. 1 in the country.
» Florida is 18-2 (two losses to Kentucky) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and are just 5-8 when the margin is even or negative.
» The Gators are 238-39 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game and 288-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Virginia boasts the No. 2 scoring defense nationally, allowing opponents to score an average of just 53.7 points per game. The Cavaliers are also ranked 10th in the country in three-point field goal defense (.295).
» UF is 5-6 against the NCAA Tournament field with four losses coming against No. 1 seeds (Kentucky, Syracuse) and one to a No. 2 seed (Ohio State). Conversely, UVA is 2-6 against the same field with two losses to No. 1 North Carolina, one to No. 2 Duke and two to No. 3 Florida State.

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3/15: Gators, Donovan preview Virginia game

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan, senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton took the podium in Omaha, NE on Thursday to discuss the team’s upcoming second-round NCAA Tournament game against the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday at 2:10 p.m. The contest will air live on TNT.

NOT CONCERNED ABOUT THE PACK LINE

Virginia’s Pack Line defense has received plenty of press both this season and leading up to the game but neither Donovan nor Florida’s players are worried about taking on the nation’s second-ranked defensive team.

“We’ve seen tape and there’s been teams that have played defense like that. You never know until you’re out there exactly how it is,” Walker said, “but we think our offense, we have enough weapons and shooting and Patric [Young] on the inside where we can attack any defense if we play the right way and move the ball.”

Boynton shared a similar opinion. “This year we’ve seen pretty much every kind of defense we can. The type of offense we have and the type of players we have, I think we can adjust to any type of defense,” he added.

Not as cavalier (no pun intended) about the match-up was Donovan, who said that each team has seen versions of the other this season so UVA’s defense should not be anything foreign to UF.

“Like any defense, there is no solution defensively for every single thing on offense. Obviously one of the things that always helps on any offense is when teams can make shots,” he said. “With Virginia, they are an outstanding defensive team. They’ve done it against everybody all year long. Teams that have had success against them have been teams that maybe have been able to make some shots. They do a great job of providing a lot of help, being in a position to help.

“For us, our spacing, how we move the basketball, what we try to take advantage of, what we see as being open, making decisions will become very important. I don’t know if necessarily our offense or what we do offensively is an advantage going against their defense. […] Although the styles may be somewhat contrasting, I don’t think it’s going to be taken by surprise – us or them – at some point during the time during the course of this lengthy season that we have not seen some similarities in each other’s systems.”

He did, however, admit that the teams have “contrasting styles” as the Gators want to “run and press and go up-and-down the floor on a regular basis” while the Cavaliers would prefer to run a half-court offense and get the best shot possible every time.

“Maybe one of the misconceptions with Virginia is that they don’t want to run at all. They’re an opportunistic running team when they have the opportunity to,” he said. “For us defensively, we’re out pressuring more and Virginia is probably in position where they’re taking away dribble-drives, paint touches, those kinds of things. You look at their scores, they’re playing in the mid-50s, a team that obviously defends very well and has held teams down all year wrong. Then there’s probably a team like ours that is looking to play in the mid-70s and 80s.”

Donovan is not concerned where the score is at the end of the day as he believes that Florida can be successful in any type of contest.

“Every game, you’re always trying to impose your will on the other team so to speak. Regardless of where the score is at, I think our basketball team has an opportunity to win regardless of where the game is being played at. And I do think that Virginia is capable of winning the game wherever the score is at,” he said. “Our team has got to be prepared to play whether it gets up-and-down a little bit or whether it gets caught in the half-court.”

ROSARIO ALSO PLANNING TO RETURN

In addition to Young, who said that he intended to return to UF for his junior season in 2012-13, redshirt junior G Mike Rosario told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway that he definitely wants to come back for one more year.

“I love Florida and I just can’t wait to provide whatever I can for this program and stay a part of this team and do whatever I can to help us win a national championship,” he said.

Rosario has not done much for the Gators recently, missing three games in the month of February due to a hip pointer and scoring just 34 points over the remaining 10 contests. He hopes to improve both his health and his impact going forward.

“The injury has set me back, and the little things I could have done on the floor to help the team, I haven’t been able to do,” he said. “I was a little bit upset that I couldn’t go out there and perform to the best of my ability at the time. I’m just happy to be healthy.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Boynton on he and Walker being experienced in the tourney: “Our role here is basically to calm everybody down before the game, let them know it’s another game but to give it their all because if you lose now it’s the end of the season.”

» Walker on Florida setting the tone offensively: “We want to play our pace and keep the pace going fast, but we got to be prepared because they’re a good team and they may not turn it over. So we got to be prepared to play their style and grind it out if it comes to that.”

» Walker on how the season has gone: “I feel personally like we could have had a better season so far, but this is a new season. Our ceiling is still very high and we can continue to get better as we practice and follow Coach Donovan. Hopefully we can make this a long trip.”

» Donovan on possibly limiting Boynton and Walker’s freedom to shoot when they’re not making baskets: “My whole thing with our guards shooting is, when they are open they need to let it go. They have a responsibility to themselves and to their teammates to shoot the ball with confidence. I tell them all the time, ‘If you’re open and you’re about to go up and shoot and you’re not sure it’s going to go in, you’re better off not even taking the shot and passing it.’ I want them to have confidence when they’re shooting the basketball. My job as a coach is to try to get them to understand and see what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot. Generally guys are not going to shoot a high percentage when they take bad shots.”

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Patric Young returning to Florida for junior year

Sophomore center Patric Young confirmed Thursday in Omaha, NE that he intends to return to the Florida Gators for his junior season, according to multiple reports on the scene for the team’s second-round match-up in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway confirmed Young’s declaration in a tweet. The player had previously told The Independent Florida Alligator’s Matt Watts on March 9 that he would be staying for his junior season before reversing course and saying he would make a final decision after the season was over.

Young, a full-time starter for Florida in his second season with the team, is averaging 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in 26.3 minutes per game. He is shooting 60.8 percent from the field (all on dunks, layups and short hooks) and 60.5 percent from the line but has been relatively inconsistent for the Gators this year.

Though he has been a strong low-post defender when he keys in on that end of the court, Young is averaging fewer rebounds than many would expect. Scouts believe he should be pulling down double-digits in that category each game.

He also remains a work-in-progress offensively, getting discouraged and failing to continue posting up if he does not receive a fair amount of touches. Head coach Billy Donovan has discussed his player’s maturity and effort level, hoping he can improve as he realizes what it takes to be successful at a higher level of competition.

“There’s a level of requirement that you have to have as a player that, when you step into practice, you’ve got to work on a regular basis to get better,” he said referring to Young. “It’s that up-and-down-ness of, ‘I’m tired, I’m sore, my knee hurts, my foot hurts.’ You can’t one minute say that and then the next minute jump up and tomahawk dunk. That doesn’t make any sense. That’s part of any player growing, and I think Patric is still scratching the surface of understanding who he can be and what he can be on a consistent basis.”

Donovan also hinted that he thought another year at UF would serve Young well.

Continue Reading » Patric Young returning to Florida for junior year

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Young, Sampson, Bennett

1 » ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford ranked Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal and sophomore center Patric Young as the No. 1 and No. 2 (respectively) NBA prospects in the West Region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Ford noted shooting and athleticism as Beal’s positives but said his struggles from beyond the arc are an obvious negative. He also said that “NBA teams expect him to thrive” in a true NBA lineup and that he could move all the way up from top six to No. 2 overall behind Anthony Davis if he performs at a high level in the tournament. Ford added that “NBA scouts are convinced Young has the potential to be a dominant defensive big man” no matter what he does offensively in college or the NBA. For further details click here (subscription required).

UPDATE: Young reaffirmed Thursday that he plans to remain at UF for 2012-13.

2 » Still looking to add a big man to their 2012 recruiting class, Florida basketball missed out on another this week when four-star power forward Jakarr Sampson (Akron, OH) decided to play for St. John’s next season. Sampson, who was originally committed to SJU before being forced to spend a year in prep school to improve his grades, recommitted to St. John’s on Wednesday over UF, Kansas and Providence. Sampson recently said he was getting prepared to visit the Gators but will no longer make that trip. “They always had my heart,” Sampson told Rivals.com about his new team. “Even when I left my heart was still here. I got to know the coaches, the players and I couldn’t leave them like that because my heart is still with them.”

3 » Florida’s primary focal point in the frontcourt has always been five-star PF Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV), who has yet to decide what school he will attend. UF, which stands a good chance of landing him, is in his top five along with Kentucky, UNLV, Washington and Oregon. “The coaching staff is really cool,” he told Rivals of the Gators in January. “My mom likes them a lot and they say that they will develop me into a three/four type player. Also, if Patric Young doesn’t go pro, I would be able to practice every day against one of the best big men in the country.”

4 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis and No. 5/6 lacrosse were both victorious in a pair of mid-week matches in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday. Gators tennis (10-1) earned a shutout 5-0 win over the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (11-1) while Florida lacrosse (7-2) gained a dominant 17-4 victory over the Stony Brook Seawolves (5-2). Weather ended the tennis match early, good news for junior No. 1 Allie Will who was down one set and losing in the second to No. 2 Beatrice Capra. Junior No. 14 Lauren Embree, senior No. 19 Joanna Mather and sophomore No. 39 Sofie Oyen won their singles matches as No. 3 Will/Oyen and No. 11 Embree/Mather also picked up doubles victories. Across campus junior attacker Caroline Chesterman led the way for the Gators by netting all five of her shots for goals. Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry each scored two goals, and junior As Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand added two apiece. Janine Hillier, who transferred was Florida’s fourth-leading scoreer a year ago but transferred in the offseason, did not score for Stony Brook.

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SIX BITS: coaches, Beal, NBA, Andrews, Schutte

1 » The Florida Gators recently let their own senior writer, GatorZone’s Scott Carter, in the football meeting rooms for two days as coaches watched film and prepared for spring practice. Three notes in particular stood out in the piece. (1) Former NFL safety Lance Schulters dropped by the facility. (2) Head coach Will Muschamp “fiery” when learning that some of his players’ lean-body mass and fast mass figures were not up to par. (3) Former Boise State backup quarterback Bush Hamdan is a football intern with the team. Doing a bit of research, former Florida graduate assistant Ryan Solesky (2006-09) has also returned to intern with the team.

2 » Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal has the NBA in his future but whether or not he decides to go pro after this season is a decision he has yet to make. “I have no clue,” he said. “I haven’t even really thought about it. Right now, I don’t know. I haven’t put too much thought into it. When that time comes I’m going to talk to Coach [Billy] Donovan and my family and we’re going to have to sit down and talk about it. When that time comes, it comes.” Beal also said he will be happy no matter what he decides. “If I leave, I still played a great year of college. I enjoyed it,” he said. “If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it.”

3 » Two former Florida players had top-notch performances in the NBA on Tuesday. Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights scored a season- and team-high 25 points on 12-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in a 116-111 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Just under 500 miles away, forward Chandler Parsons scored a team-high 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting with seven boards, six dimes and a steal to lead his Houston Rockets over Oklahoma City. Parsons also registered another impressive dunk, this time over Serge Ibaka.

4 » Could Erin Andrews’s time at ESPN be drawing to a close? The network confirmed to SportsBusiness Journal this week that the ACC Tournament was “the last scheduled assignment for Erin Andrews” as her “contract [is] coming up.” However, the Worldwide Leader also said that they “hope to renew her.” Andrews signed a two-year deal with ESPN in 2010, one that saw her duties increase. In addition to doing sideline reporting and working on stories for College GameDay, Andrews was given hosting duties for the first hour of the program on ESPNU and a role on Good Morning America on ABC. She was even on the red carpet interviewing celebrities prior to this year’s Oscars. Andrews had a number of intriguing offers for her services in 2010 and is expected to have as many – if not more – as she is set to become a free agent again this year.

5 » No. 4 Gators softball’s title chances have taken a hit as it appears that junior catcher Brittany Schutte, the team’s batting average leader (.477) who also has three homers and 23 RBIs in the young season, broke her jaw on March 2 and is out of action indefinitely. “If we get her back at all this season, it won’t be for a long time,” head coach Tim Walton told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley. Schutte has already missed eight games and “had surgery on March 5 to insert a plate in her jaw and wire it shut.” With Florida losing so many power hitters to graduation last season, Schutte’s bit bat fit in nicely in the middle of the lineup. The Gators will be unable to replace her hitting but have classmate Kelsey Horton filling in for her behind the plate.

6 » Florida women’s basketball earned an at-large berth to the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Monday, learning that they will be participating in the event for the 13th time in school history and first since 2009. The Gators will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in first-round action on Sunday with the winner likely facing the undefeated and top-ranked Baylor in second-round action. Below is a video courtesy of GatorVision.tv of the team celebrating their berth.

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3/12: Donovan, Gators discuss NCAA Tourney

With his team having lost four of their last five games as they head into the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and a few of his players discussed the upcoming event in a scheduled media availability on Monday.

ON FLORIDA’s NO. 7 SEED IN THE WEST REGION

Listed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee as the No. 28 overall team in the field, the Gators were provided the “worst” seven seed and will take on the 10-seed Virginia Cavaliers on Friday at 2:10 p.m.

» Donovan on if he is pleased with the seeding: “Whenever a seed is handed out, I’ve always believed you kind of move on and move forward and you’re not going to change anything. The committee spends an enormous amount of time, they’re very diligent. I felt like going into it a five, maybe six, somewhere in that range. Compared up or matched up with everybody else in the field they gave us a seed that they thought was fair. I don’t have a problem with it. I’m fine. We’ve got to move on and play. […] For us right now it’s a one-game tournament. We’ve been given the opportunity to play Friday against Virginia and right now that’s the only thing that matters. If you’re fortunate enough to advance and move on, then you worry about the next opponent that comes.”

» Senior point guard Erving Walker on if he was nervous while watching the show: “It wasn’t too bad. We knew we made it – it’s a lot different sitting there on the bubble.”

ON VIRGINIA’S PACK-LINE DEFENSE

Recently profiled by Sports Illustrated, the Cavaliers’ Pack-Lane defense was pioneered by the father of current Virginia coach Tony Bennett and has been the primary method of UVA’s success this season. As SI notes, Virginia “plays at the 339th slowest pace in D-I because the Pack-Line is next-to-impossible to score on early in the shot clock. By limiting the number of possessions, Pack-Lining can fuel Cinderella runs but also produce aesthetic atrocities.” In 31 games this season, the Cavaliers have held 25 teams to fewer to 62 points (12 of those scored fewer than 50 and three posted fewer than 40).

» Donovan on the defense: “They do a terrific job defensively. They’re well-positioned. They do a great job holding teams down. They’ve done that all year long. Certainly they’ve played in a terrific conference, the ACC. They’ve faced some of the better teams in the country all year long. It will be a little bit different for us so to speak. We have played teams that maybe don’t necessarily do the exact same thing but there are teams that have similar philosophies, similar mindsets in terms of how they want to play defensively. There’s no question that’s obviously a real strength of their team is how well they do defend, the way they help each other, the pressure they apply on the ball, the way they try to eliminate and take away things at the basket. […] I think they’ve done it with their defense. They’re holding teams down. Any time you hold teams down like they do, you’re always going to be in the game and give yourself a chance to win. If you look at a lot of their games and a lot of their scores, they’re always very tight and very close.”

» Freshman guard Bradley Beal on how to attack a tough defense: “We’re going to try to push the tempo and get them out of their comfort zone, get them to play fast and play at our pace.”

» Junior forward Erik Murphy on some offensive philosophy: “We’re always trying to run. It’s what Coach Donovan preaches – trying to run and push the tempo offensively. I think we’ll try and do that.”

PLAYER NOTES

» Donovan on Boynton’s recent struggles: “I got great confidence in Kenny that when he’s open he should shoot the ball and take those shots. Like anything else, when the ball’s not going in the basket, you cannot be consumed with it. You’ve got to do other things.”

» Donovan on how Murphy impacts the team: “He stretches the defense. His shots a lot of times are coming from decisions. Erik is not a shot-creator for himself. He has gotten better at catching it, maybe shot-faking, putting the ball on the floor for a couple of dribbles and driving it to the basket. He’s done a little more of that as the season has gone on. He is a recipient of our backcourt players coming off of screens, him popping back. Or Patric’s rolling to the basket and he’s kind of rolling in behind him. He’s really a guy that relies on the floor being moved and spaced and our guards making decisions to find him when he’s open.“

» Donovan on if he is seeing improvements from Young: “I actually thought Patric did a pretty good job. He gave us a low-post presence. In the Alabama game he got great low post position, but he did not finish plays like he is normally capable of and he did not shoot the ball particularly well. In the Kentucky game he had some really good plays in the first half in and around the basket. He went to the basket really strong in the second half offensive rebounding-wise. Patric has been, I’d say the last two weeks, he’s been much better in terms of being more consistent and maybe moving on and trying to block out some of the things that have distracted him health-wise. I think he’s grown and matured. I’m hoping he can see that when he’s prepared really well in practice and he’s been really focused and worked to get better, there has definitely been a significant improvement once the game has come.”

» Donovan on if Young’s inconsistencies are normal for a player at his position and of his age: “The answer would be yes, somewhat. It’s always interesting to me, and I don’t know if I’ll ever find out this answer. There are certain guys that go from a role position the year before and jump into a starting role and can absorb it and handle it and there’s absolutely no transition. A perfect example for that would be Matt Bonner. Matt Bonner his freshman year didn’t really play a whole lot. Brent Wright goes down with an injury, he steps in and from that point forward he averages 15 points a game and was phenomenal. There was very little adjustment. Joakim Noah, there was very little adjustment. But then there have been other players where they kind of come out of a role from a year ago where it’s taken them some time to understand the consistency it takes and the everyday effort and focus it takes to be a key roleplayer and a starter and to be able to perform on a regular basis. As a frontcourt player, it’s not that surprising. I’ve seen Patric really make some great strides and grow from a year ago in terms of his consistency. But I do think, for him, that is part of the maturation process that he is going through. […] I’m always looking for if a guy has gotten better. I think Patric is a better player today than he was a year ago. If Patric was in that role last year and Vernon wasn’t here, there is no way he would have been able to handle what he’s handled this year.”

» Beal on playing in his first NCAA Tournament: “It’s real exciting. The SEC Tournament was just a glimpse of what the NCAA tournament is going to be like. […] I’m actually living a dream now, so I’m just really looking forward to it and I can’t wait until Friday.”

» Walker on why the NCAA Tournament is different: “The intensity of the game. Both teams are so focused and certain teams and players seem to play out of their mind in the NCAA Tournament.”

» Walker on how far the team can go: “We want to go as far as we can – Final Four or Championship – but it all starts with preparation and practice and just taking it one game at a time, focusing on Virginia first.”

» Murphy on if his confidence is up after the Kentucky game: “My confidence is always there. That’s not an issue. Shots fell against Kentucky and they may fall or they may not [in other games]. You just got to do everything else you can to help the team win.”

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Three Florida Gators earn All-SEC honors from AP

Three members of the 2011-12 Florida Gators basketball team earned recognition from the Associated Press on Monday for their efforts this season.

Guards freshman Bradley Beal and junior Kenny Boynton were named to the All-SEC Second Team, and senior point guard Erving Walker received an honorable mention though he was not placed on a team.

Beal and Boynton were named to the All-SEC First Team last week by the conference’s coaches with Walker earning a spot on the second team. Beal was also added to the SEC All-Freshman Team, and sophomore center Patric Young earned recognition for his activities both on the court and in the classroom (3.37 GPA in telecommunications) with the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.

Those four Florida players are not the only ones to receive special recognition after this season as sophomore forward Will Yeguete was placed on the 2012 SEC Community Service Team last Monday.

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OGGOA’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Challenge

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive is inviting you, our readers, to join our third annual NCAA Tournament Challenge. Hosted by CBSSports.com, OGGOA’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Challenge is intended to provide you all with a sense of community, competition and – of course – a few PRIZES as you watch the Florida Gators compete in the event!

OGGOA will give out a grand prize as well as a runner-up prize as part of the contest. The grand prize – a copy of Sports Illustrated signed by former Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer will be sent to the overall winner by Palm Beach Autographs. The second prize – a set of Florida Gators party supplies – will be awarded to the entry with the most total correct picks. Have fun and enjoy March Madness!

To sign up, visit: http://oggoa.mayhem.cbssports.com/e

Password: moss4

*Make sure you have a CBSSports.com account before signing up.

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