Florida coach Billy Donovan and UCLA coach Steve Alford have experience being in the same NCAA Tournament, dating to when both were college players.
Donovan's Providence College and Alford's Indiana University played in the 1987 Final Four in New Orleans. Providence lost its semifinal to Syracuse. Indiana beat UNLV and went on to win the national title.
Tonight the two meet in the South Region semifinals at Memphis. Though their paths haven't crossed regularly, each professed admiration for the other.
"He's had obviously a terrific career at Florida," Alford said. "He's just a fierce competitor. Very skilled, talented guard, high basketball IQ as a player and kind of emulates that now as a coach. His teams always play hard. They're extremely well coached, disciplined, but they have a lot of fun playing the game. That's kind of what he emulated, I think as a player, somebody that just got the most out of his ability and played hard and played well."
Donovan said he's always had a good relationship with Alford, and the two have a lot in common. Like Alford, he thinks UCLA mirrors its coach.
"I've always liked Steve," Donovan said. "I've got a lot of respect for him as a person. "He's a really, really good guy. … I think Steve is a really, really good offensive mind. He does a lot of really good, unique things with his team. I think he puts his guys in situations to be successful. He's probably taken some things from Indiana and playing for Bobby Knight. He's probably taken some things on his own based on his team. But they've always been really, really good offensively, a very disciplined team."
Coincidentally, 1987 was Florida's first NCAA Tournament, and the Gators lost to Syracuse in the Sweet 16. That Gator team included Vernon Maxwell and Brandon's Dwayne Schintzius.
walker patient: Touted Gator freshman Chris Walker, who got a late start because of NCAA issues, has had a quiet season coming off the bench. He is not complaining about playing time and keeps a positive attitude. "I am just trying to embrace the process and embrace my role on the team," he said. "Coach Donovan knows what he's doing. As long as we're winning, I'm happy." Walker said he didn't expect the learning curve to be so steep in college, especially on defense. Donovan is slowly teaching him that his "days of standing in the lane in a high school game and daring people to come down the lane and blocking their shots" are over, Walker said.
NO HELP AT ALL: Dayton plays Stanford in tonight's first South Region semi, and you might think Flyers coach Archie Miller might have an edge. His brother Sean is the Arizona coach and has faced Stanford several times. "I haven't (talked to him)," Archie Miller said. "I've only spoken to Sean one time since the opening round finished. As we've gotten into the tournament, preparation starts, and then you're fortunate enough to win, you don't really care about what's going on. … Like I told everybody, he could get me the greatest game plan in the world; I don't have his players. My players have to execute what we do, and we're going to have a hard enough time ourselves."
iowa state: The Cyclones have developed a bond with fans that has led to strong support all season, including a school record of nearly 11,500 season tickets sold. Joe Kukulski, a co-chairman of the student fan group Cyclone Alley, said the team has made a concerted effort to bond with the community in public and on social media. "They're very down-to-earth guys," Kukulski said. "They're not afraid to be themselves." Fans have shown their appreciation. Students organized a mass flop to heckle Oklahoma State rival Marcus Smart, and others put Band-Aids over their eyes en masse to support F Georges Niang after his head injury in the Big 12 semifinals. "We love playing for these people,'' said G DeAndre Kane, whose team plays UConn in the East Region semis on Friday in New York. "They deserve championships."
michigan: Coach John Beilein has had a successful career and family life, raising four children with his wife of 30-plus years and winning 700 games. One regret: Beilein wishes he had gone into the military, as many members of his relatives did — and do — including extended family members who helped to inspire the film Saving Private Ryan. "That's one of my regrets," Beilein said. "It wasn't cool in 1971 to go into the service." Beilein tries to make up for that by teaching his players to respect the military sacrifices made by men and women. Before Friday's game against Tennessee in the Midwest Region semis at Indianapolis, the Wolverines will be expected to stand at attention during the national anthem. "I always remind the guys that when the national anthem is playing, just remember there's people freezing their tail off on a hill in Afghanistan while you're getting ready to play a game," Beilein said.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.
NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
|Region semis||Region finals||Final Four||Championship||Final Four||Region finals||Region semis|
|South||Memphis||1 Florida||1 Arizona||Anaheim, Calif.||WEST|
|about 9:45 tonight, Ch. 10||at Arlington, Texas||about 10:17 tonight, TBS|
|4 UCLA||4 San Diego State|
|11 Dayton||6 or 8:30, TBS||6 or 8:30, TBS||6 Baylor|
|7:15 tonight, Ch. 10||7:47 tonight, TBS|
|10 Stanford||2 Wisconsin|
|April 5||April 7||April 5|
|East||New York||1 Virginia||6 or 8:30, TBS||9:10, Ch. 10||6 or 8:30, TBS||8 Kentucky||Indianapolis||MIDWEST|
|about 9:57 Friday, TBS||about 9:45 Friday, Ch. 10|
|4 Michigan State||4 Louisville|
|3 Iowa State||2:10 or 4:55, Ch. 10||2:10 or 4:55, Ch. 10||11 Tennessee|
|7:27 Friday, TBS||7:15 Friday, Ch. 10|
|7 Connecticut||2 Michigan|