NCAA Notebook: Gators hope experience will be added advantage in NCAA Tournament
OMAHA, Neb. - Florida is hoping experience will play a factor their favor in Friday’s NCAA Tournament game.
With the exception of freshman guard Bradley Beal, Florida’s starting lineup has all played in the NCAA Tournament before. Virginia is playing in just its fourth NCAA Tournament in the past 16 years.
“I think experience plays a pretty big role,’’ Florida sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “You know what to expect. It’s a difficult environment, and there’s added pressure because you know it could be your last game and it’s a team you haven’t gone against before. Most of our guys have been here, so hopefully that’ll help us come out with a win.’’
Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who coached in NCAA Tournament with Washington State, said he believes experience can be an advantage – to a point.
“Experience is always golden, but it’s not everything,’’ Bennett said. “Florida is a team that’s been here, but hopefully five minutes into the first media timeout that will be enough experience.’’
Florida center Patric Young said having been to the tournament and losing to Butler in the Elite Eight last year has the Gators more focused and determined this year. He said it will be tough for Virginia to know what to expect on Friday.
“Hopefully they’ll take it for granted,’’ Young said. “Because you don’t realize how close you were until you lose and you reflect on how close you were to making it somewhere deep and making history. But we understand that. We understand the opportunity that lies in front of us. We’re not here just to be here, we’re here to make it to the Final Four. We know exactly what it takes, hopefully we’ll keep that in mind, and it changes our level of play. When you taste it, and you get as far as we got (last year), you want to get there again. We really do.’’
BATTLING INCONSISTENCY: If Florida had been just a little more consistent this season, the Gators said there's no telling how much better they might have been.
“I think we have been off and on,’’ junior guard Kenny Boynton said. “Some games we came out and had great offensive and defensive efforts, and some games we haven’t.’’
Senior guard Erving Walker said he doesn’t think the Gators have yet reached their full potential.
“We have been up and down this year,’’ he said. “I feel personally we could have had a better season so far. But this is a new season, and our ceiling is high and we continue to get better in practice. So hopefully we can make this a long trip.’’
NOT CONTENT: Virginia is in its first NCAA Tournament since 2007, but the Cavaliers said they aren’t just happy to be in Omaha. They plan on staying awhile.
“First we were celebrating and we were happy when we saw our names called,’’ fifth-year senior forward Mike Scott said. “For the most part, I don’t think any of my teammates are just happy. I think we want to go deep into the tournament and win some games. We’re not just settling just for being here. I’m definitely excited to come out and compete against Florida.’’
Scott suffered an injury last season and was given a fifth year of eligibility, which he now considers a blessing.
“Last year someone told me my injury was a blessing in disguise and I couldn’t see it right then,’’ he said. “To come back, shave off 20 pounds and work with Mike Curtis and work with the coaches. . . For the most part, it came out good.’’
ROAD LOVE: When asked about his favorite moment this season, Missouri guard Kim English didn’t go with winning the Big 12 title. Instead, he talked about cherishing victories on the road.
It’s all of our road wins, each road win,’’ English said. “I would say there is no better feeling. Winning in Kansas City was great, but winning on the road is great because we know how much work we put in that week preparing. When you have 15 guys going up against 12,000, and we come out of there with a victory, there is no better feeling in college basketball.
English said his injured quad is still healing, and although the swelling has diminished he continues to receive a great deal of treatment. When he gets physical contact it bothers him, he said. Marcus Denmon also has an injured ankle.
“I’m getting treatment,’’ Denmon said. “The swelling has gone down, but I feel a lot better. It still bothers me some, but it’s nothing that I won’t play with.’’