PHOENIX — Call it the other Pitino factor.
Much has been made about the relationship between Florida coach Billy Donovan and his former coach and mentor Rick Pitino of Louisville. But the Pitino who may be the biggest factor today is Richard Pitino — the Louisville associate head coach who spent two seasons as a UF assistant until last season.
"He knows us really well, and they will know what's coming," Florida G Kenny Boynton said. "But just because you know what's coming doesn't mean you can stop it. That's definitely a pretty good advantage, but I think in college there's so much scouting — like take Marquette — we knew all of their plays also. So even though they know it, I don't think it'll be too much of a difference."
LEARNING, BONDING: It has been 12 days since Florida began its NCAA Tournament journey, and the Gators haven't returned to Gainesville since they left for Omaha, Neb., on March 13. Though it has been a significantly longer trip than any other this season, the players said it has brought them closer as a team.
As for the extensive class time the players are missing, apparently there's a lot to get caught up on. Asked what it's like to be away from school so long and how they are keeping up academically, freshman G Bradley Beal responded: "I guess it's not too bad. I mean, more basketball, less school. We probably don't mind (not) going to class, but at the end we're still going to have to make up the work when we get back, so it doesn't matter."
WHATEVER COACH SAYS: Louisville G Peyton Siva is Pitino's latest guard protege. Asked if he would ever don a cowboy hat, spurs and boots for a media guide cover the way Donovan did at Providence 25 years ago, Siva said sure.
"What I've learned is I'll do whatever Coach P wants me to do," Siva said. "If he told me to put a tutu on in front of ESPN, I'd go do that."
EXPERIENCE COUNTS: The Gators believe that having advanced to the Elite Eight last season will prove beneficial this year. "I think it's huge, even for myself," senior G Erving Walker said. "I feel a lot more relaxed. Still focused, but just being there last year, you pretty much know what to expect." Florida is 4-1 in Elite Eight appearances, losing only to Butler last season.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]