Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida, UConn have experience in huge arena

ARLINGTON, Texas — Florida has played all three of the other teams participating in tonight's Final Four, but the Gators and Kentucky may have a slight advantage because both have played at AT&T Stadium. The Gators played in it in an NCAA regional last year, and Kentucky played at the stadium against Baylor on Dec. 6.

"This is definitely the biggest arena I have played in, but it helps to have played here just last year," Gators senior F Casey Prather said.

"It looks way different from the last time we were here," Kentucky C Dakari Johnson said. "Everything is way different from the last time we came here."

AT&T Stadium is cavernous. Essentially it is a basketball court set in a vast open space. Because there is not a normal basketball arena background, some players said depth perception will be affected.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said the problem is the same for every team.

"We had the opportunity last year to play here, so for some of our guys, it is a familiar place," he said. "But I think there's enough time to get ready and play in this kind of venue, because it is a little bit different. But everybody here is dealing with the same thing. We have all been given the opportunity to come out there and shoot and see what the building is like."

TOUGH TIME: Kentucky C Willie Cauley-Stein is questionable for tonight's semifinal against Wisconsin. The sophomore played 37 games this season before injuring an ankle in the Sweet 16 against Louisville.

"It's definitely emotional," Cauley-Stein said. "This is what you come to school for, and this is what you work so hard for. To have it taken away from you, it's heartbreaking. But you have to lose yourself in your teammates and be happy for what they are accomplishing and enjoy the ride that comes with it. After we won the Louisville game, you think to yourself how perfect the next two games would have been to play in. You can easily say that, but it could be a blessing in disguise."

PLAIN AND SIMPLE: Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has come long way from his days as coach at Wisconsin-Platteville, where he won four Division III national titles. Ryan is making his first appearance as a head coach in the Final Four, but he insists he's the same guy he was back then. It's everything else around him that has changed.

Asked about the differences between the two levels of competition, Ryan, 66, said: "The day before we played the national championship game in the years that I was in Division III, I had a diet pop — I always said soda until I got to Wisconsin; now it's pop — and a cream doughnut at the Krispy Kreme place and enjoyed that, read the paper, did some crossword puzzles and went to the game the next day. The difference? I haven't had a cream-filled donut today. I haven't had a diet pop. You get to answer a lot of questions you don't get to answer in Division III. It's the whole ambiance of this takes over from the outside, and that's okay."

Antonya English can be reached at

Florida, UConn have experience in huge arena 04/04/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 5, 2014 12:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays send down Chase Whitley, Andrew Kittredge; add Chih-Wei Hu, acitvate Alex Cobb


    After having to cover more than five innings following a short start by Austin Pruitt, the Rays shuffled their bullpen following Wednesday's game, sending down RHPs Chase Whitley and Andrew Kittredge,

    The Kittredge move was expected, as he was summoned to add depth to the pen Wednesday in advance of RHP Alex …

  2. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred moves closer to wanting a decision on Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred called Wednesday for urgency from Tampa Bay area government leaders to prioritize and move quicker on plans for a new Rays stadium.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks with reporters at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    The Austin Pruitt experiment might be over, or at least put on pause. After allowing six runs over seven innings to Seattle on Friday, the rookie didn't get through the fourth Wednesday, giving up five runs on four homers. His ERA for past six starts: 5.29.

  4. Six home runs doom Rays in loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — A curve that didn't bounce was the difference Wednesday as the Rays lost 7-6 to the Blue Jays in front of 8,264, the smallest Tropicana field crowd since Sept. 5, 2006.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) greets center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) at the plate after his two run home run in the third inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  5. Jones: Stop talking and start building a new Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was good to see Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, talking Rays baseball and the hope for a new stadium somewhere in Tampa Bay.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is popular with the media on a visit to Tropicana Field.