Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Gators know Final Four opponents well

They have participated in a net-cutting ceremony three times this season: to celebrate winning the SEC regular season title, winning the SEC tournament championship and this past weekend winning the NCAA Tournament South Region.

Now the Florida Gators have their sights set on one more set of nets: those at Cowboys Stadium. It has been seven years, but the Gators have returned to the NCAA Tournament Final Four.

The field includes three teams the Gators have faced during the regular season — Wisconsin, Connecticut and Kentucky — but the players said they have an extra bonus being led by a Billy Donovan who has coached and played in the Final Four.

"I mean, we always follow him and we always listen to what he has to say because he always says good things to us, motivational things," senior guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "And I'm glad that he's been there before so he can kind of warn us how crazy it's going to be because I mean we've never been there before. We have ideas of what it might be like but he's been there and he knows what it's like so he can tell us and get us prepared."

Here are some fun facts heading into this weekend's Final Four:

Husky takeover

Connecticut is the only school to have both its men's and women's teams advance to the Final Four this season. This is the 11th time that both the men's and women's team from one school have reached the Final Four in the same season. Louisville had both its teams in 2013. Connecticut is the only school to win both in the same season — 2004. UConn coach Kevin Ollie said it's a unique experience to be at a place where both programs are highly successful.

"It adds to the joy," Ollie said. "It's great to have those girls doing a great job, being great student athletes, being role models to my kids. But also have the men's team doing what they're doing is a great synergy. It's great to see both programs, to see UConn on ESPN, any TV outlet each and every night. It's just a great experience."

Forget the clipboard

When you're watching this weekend's games and TBS throws the camera on the Wisconsin huddle during a timeout, don't be shocked when you don't see a coaching board in coach Bo Ryan's hands.

Call him old-school. He doesn't use one.

"Have you ever watched a huddle, where the players' eyes are (wandering) while the coach is making 15 lines?" Ryan said. "You look at that thing and you swear it was your 4-year old granddaughter who just made a drawing for you. Coaches get a little excited with that marker. I like to keep it simple, keep it down to certain options, so that's why I don't use the board."

SEC, SEC

All season long analysts and basketball pundits referred to the SEC as the worst of the power conferences. And if you watched a lot of SEC basketball, many times they had a legitimate point. Yet, the league has two of the teams participating in the Final Four. The most surprising is Kentucky, which lost four of its last seven regular season games and was a No. 8 seed entering the tournament. One person who's not surprised is UK coach John Calipari who said he always believed in this team. "It's a process," he said. "You can't skip steps. Part of that process is failing fast, sometimes failing often. The final step to all this is you surrender to each other, you lose yourself in the team, and you understand less is more. But that really takes time when you're playing seven freshmen in your top eight and each of them scored 25 points a game in high school."

Hot ticket

According to seatgeek.com, the average resale price for a ticket to Saturday's national semifinals session on Saturday is $633, while the average resale price for a full session to this year's Final Four is $1,185. For tickets to Monday's title game, those are currently averaging $627 on secondary markets. The event is on pace to be the most expensive of any Final Four in the past four years. Through Monday, that $1,185 all-session average is outpacing the average prices seen through the Monday before the Final Four in 2013 ($938), 2012 ($485) and 2011 ($681), according to seatgeek.com's research.

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