For Florida, the second of what they hope will be three net cutting ceremonies total during this season was performed Saturday in FedEx Forum.
Welcome to a whole new round of distractions. It’s not something you might think about but this is college basketball’s biggest stage. In addition to trying to figure out how to deal with Jerry World’s shootiong backdrop — which luckily they’ve seen before — they’ve got increased media obligations and little things like maneuvering ticket requests for family and friends.
Each player gets six tickets, which can be transferred between teammates if not every spot get filled. Some choose to procrastinate — a tried and true tradition for college kids — like senior Scottie Wilbekin who with two hours to go before the deadline of 3 p.m. Monday hadn’t gotten his request filled. Others outsource the task to family like sophomore guard Michael Frazier II.
“Well, my family is pretty good about that, he said. “They know that I’m very focused. So, they know when it comes to things like this not to really bother me. I’ll handle it and I do a pretty good job of handling it well before the game starts so I don’t have to worry about it.”
Frazier’s focus is renowned, his default setting seems to be a measured tone and a calm, cool demeanor, so much so that it even promoted a member of the media to ask him if he ever gets stressed out during his Monday press conference. His teammates don’t give him a hard time about it, Frazier says they simply accept him for who he is, and they may need to draw from that focused nature at times this week. If not from Frazier, they have a wealth of Final Four experience wearing a suit and tie at the end of the bench in head coach Billy Donovan. A veteran of three Final Fours as a coach and one as a player, his leadership will be key this weekend.
“When you don’t know, I’ve got to try to give them what’s going to happen, the excitement, the enthusiasm,” Donovan said. “The length of time that they have to deal with the media, the length of time of open practices and availability. Like I said, it’s no different from the Super Bowl. There is going to be a lot of different things, and you try to prepare them as best they can so that they understand that they cannot get emotionally drained with dealing with all that we have to deal with.”
Another thing Donovan touched on was the fact that this team just won the biggest game of their lives to date, and scaled a mountain they’d fallen off before reaching the summit each of the last three seasons. They’ll have to put that achievement behind them as they move forward to the Final Four.
But this is a team that has been exceptional all year long when it comes to dealing with distractions and noise in the system. For starters, they’re on the longest winning streak of any team nationally and in school history as well. They’re the No. 1 team in the nation and have had to deal with oddities like suspensions and prolonged NCAA procrastination. They are used to noise, their focus is constantly on the next task and the next game thanks to an almost robotic regurgitation of Donovan’s core tenets.
So, in North Texas in the coming days the distractions will mount, but not only has Florida dealt with such things already this season, they’ve won in spite of them. They’ve won 30-consecutive games despite noise and mounting pressure by staying in the moment and focusing on the task in front of them.
Now the task is to win twice more.