After a drought of two seasons, the Florida Gators (24-8, 14-4 SEC) have finally earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite a rough finish to the season, losing three of its last four games and a one and done appearance in the SEC Tournament, Florida’s overall body of work earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators will face No. 13 seed East Tennessee State (27-7, 14-4 Southern Conference) in the first round of the tournament.
The Buccaneers battled with SEC opponents in the regular season, defeating Mississippi State 75-61 and just falling to Tennessee 72-68. ETSU won the Southern Conference Tournament.
This will be ETSU’s 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but it has only made it past the first round twice in program history.
Florida will compete in the East Region in Orlando, Fla., for the first games of the tournament. An opportunity to essentially be at home is a huge advantage for Florida and could bring some life back to a team that has not been on its best game as of late.
“The fans can come; the Rowdies can hopefully come,” said senior Kasey Hill. “It can be two home games for us.”
The Gators have only been a No. 4 seed one other time, in 2005. Florida made it to the Round of 32, defeating Ohio before falling to Villanova. No. 4 seeds are 102-25 all-time in the first round of the tournament.
California was the only No. 4 seed to go down in the first round last year, while two, Duke and Iowa State made it to the Sweet 16. The only No. 4 seed to ever win the NCAA Tournament was Arizona in 1997.
Florida will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance under Mike White. Despite an outstanding resume as head coach at Louisiana Tech, White has never coached in the NCAA Tournament. This season, he will finally get his chance.
“March for myself personally and the staffs that I’ve been associated with and that teams that I’ve been a part of since my playing days, it’s been bittersweet. It’s been really neat to follow the NCAA tournament, but it’s always been like, ‘Man, if we could have just won this one more game, we’d be in it,’ or, ‘If we could have done this better, or that better, golly, how can we next year be in this thing?’ So this year for us is going to be different. It’s going to be a little bit more gratifying, exciting to be a part of it … The NCAA tournament, it’s a special tournament. It’s one of the neatest events in all of the sport. It’s going to be great to be a part of it.”
If the Gators defeat the Buccaneers in the first round, they would face the winner of No. 5 seed Virginia and No. 12 seed UNC Wilmington.