It’s far from a guarantee, but the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament sure makes things a lot easier for a team with aspirations of cutting down the nets in celebration during the first week of April. Luckily for Florida, their efforts this season have been rewarded with not just a No. 1 seed, but the No. 1 seed, the second time in school history UF has earned the honor.
The Gators have been playing as a No. 1 in some form since February 23rd when they ascended to the top spot in each of the two top-25 polls. They also are little more than half an hour removed from completing an SEC tournament championship run as the conference’s No.1 seed. Conventional wisdom says this means that UF’s mentality should be that of a group used to taking an opponent’s best shot. Head coach Billy Donovan sees things differently.
“I look at it the other way,” Donovan told the media Monday. “I’ve said this before, I think when you’re talking about teams getting emotionally ready to play or getting a team’s best shot, that should put us in a situation that we need to throw our best shot. We need to put out what’s best from us. I think that’s really important. We can’t control how the other team is going to come out and play, but we can control how we’re going to come out and play.”
Thursday and Friday Florida, as well as its fellow top seeds, will put a streak on the line. You see, a 16 seed has never beaten a top seed –116-0 all time– but this current cream of college basketball’s crop should be worried because last season it almost happened. Two games were decided by single digits between 16s and ones in the opening round. Western Kentucky fell by seven to Syracuse and Southern fell to Gonzaga by only six.
Seven out of the last nine national champions have been one seeds, and since the tournament expanded to 64 in 1985, 18 times a No. 1 seed has won the national championship. If Florida does get to the Final Four, there’s a significant chance that they won’t be having a party of ones in North Texas. Only once –2008– have all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four. In 2006, the Gators competed in one of only three Final Fours in which a No. 1 was not present since seeding teams began in 1979.
Predictably Donovan says the little numeral next to his team’s name means nothing.
“I really think this,” he said “When the ball goes up in the air, I don’t think our guys are running around saying, ‘We’re No. 1 in the country, we’re No. 1 in the country.’ They’re just playing. All this other stuff that’s all this hype stuff that gets hyped up before a game, once the ball goes up and both teams are playing, seeding, ranking, record, all that stuff goes out the window.”
While the games are going on, sure the rankings and seeds may not matter. But if Florida can win six more they’ll forever be 2014’s No. 1 team, a talented senior-laden group that lived up to the hype surrounding it– and that is a guarantee.