Florida coach Billy Donovan is always encouraging his players to "live in the moment," and nobody is following that advice more seriously than the Gator seniors. Remember, this is the group that came to town on the heels of Florida's back-to-back national titles, then spent their first two years of postseason play in the NIT. And when they finally made it to the NCAA Tournament last season, it was one and done. From that, the Gators said they've learned a valuable lesson: it's not just about getting to the Dance, it's sticking around that counts.
"The difference now is we've got three seniors," senior center Vernon Macklin said. "And once the game is over, we can't look to next year. It's over. So we told those (young) guys how the feeling is going to be if you lose, and you don't want that feeling. You want to keep playing as long as you can. There's definitely a huge sense of urgency. We're not just happy to be here.''
ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE: As the No. 15 seed, UCSB is considered the underdog, but "I think for us, we've just got to be going, 'Just believe,' " Gauchos guard/forward Orlando Johnson said. "We've been having this (slogan) on our wall just like the whole season, just talking about believing in what we do and each other. We've had some ups and downs this year, we know that, but we've never given up, and we've always had this, like, animal come out inside of us, which was calling at the last game (a 64-56 win over No. 1 seed Long Beach State in the Big West tournament). As long as we have that inside and we bring that out (today), then we'll be ready."
SO WHAT ABOUT BIG BLUE?: Kentucky fans are famous for their love of their team and huge following of their beloved Wildcats. Last weekend, Florida got a chance to see that first hand as Kentucky fans dominated the stands at the Georgia Dome during the SEC tournament. The Gators expect more of the same today but hope Florida fans will show up in droves for their game, as well.
"I'm sure it'll be a lot of Kentucky fans, but I'm definitely expecting a lot of Florida fans also," sophomore guard Kenny Boynton said.
Boynton said he hopes that if Kentucky fans stick around for the second session, SEC pride will kick in when the Gators play. "I'm not sure, but I honestly think they'll root for us," he said. "But I'm not sure."