AUSTIN, Texas — Facing a Northwestern State team that utilizes about 10 players per game, Florida expects a physical contest that will require some help from its bench today.
And this week's practices have reflected that.
Freshman G Jacob Kurtz sported nine stitches in his forehead Thursday after a collision. The Gators, who primarily use seven players per game, hope for more help from a bench that includes sixth man Will Yeguete, who is still working his way back after missing eight games due to knee surgery.
"We're playing a team that's aggressive and is going to press us," said Yeguete, a sophomore forward who said he's feeling closer to his old self. "So we practiced differently to make sure we take care of the ball. We're just guaranteed one game, so we have to make sure we go out there and play hard."
TICKET TROUBLE: The games in Austin aren't drawing as many fans as organizers hoped. According to the Austin American-Statesman, among the eight host cities, Austin was the only one with lower-level seats still available.
Part of the problem is no team from Texas is in the tournament. The closest team is Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., which is about 330 miles away — so close it rode a bus. All other schools are more than 1,000 miles away.
NBA TALK? NOT NOW: Miami sophomore G Shane Larkin has had such an impressive season — 14.6 points per game for the ACC regular-season and tournament champs — he's fielding questions about his future.
So Larkin asked his father, Hall of Fame baseball player Barry Larkin, to handle all phone calls related to the draft.
"Right now, I'm really just focused on the tournament," Larkin said. "He's really helped me with that because he hasn't put any pressure on me on which decision I should make. He's just really been supportive.
"He just really wants me to focus on this NCAA Tournament and try to go out there and win these games with my teammates because that's the most important thing right now."
Hello, again: Colorado had been to the tournament just 10 times between 1940-2011. But since coach Tad Boyle arrived in 2010, the Buffaloes look like a program on the rise.
He has led them to the tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1962-63. And today, the No. 10 seed is a trendy upset pick against No. 7-seeded Illinois.
"We're the pretty girl right now," Colorado F Spencer Dinwiddie said. "Everybody wants to pick us."
Colorado wouldn't have been anyone's pick until Boyle arrived from Northern Colorado. Under him, it has averaged 23 wins.
"When Coach was recruiting me, he talked about wanting to build Colorado into a perennial Top 25 program. I think you see the strides that we're making toward that," Dinwiddie said. "And we are just going to get better."
FAREWELL: When Pacific's run ends — possibly today against Miami — it will mark the final game for coach Bob Thomason, who is retiring from his alma mater after 25 years.
"One of my personal goals in the beginning of the year was to make sure that Coach will be able to leave on a great note," junior G Lorenzo McCloud said. "It's a great opportunity for all of us, and I'm thankful that he can retire in a good way."
Information from Times wires was used in this report.