MEMPHIS, Tenn.– For the Florida Gators, it’s here we go again. The Elite Eight, the foe that has put a stop to three previous runs at the ultimate goal, a national championship. The storyline sets up perfectly: a tight-knit group of seniors who have been through it all together finally overcome their biggest stumbling block in their last attempt.
What a chapter it would be in the storybook ending this group hopes to punctuate in North Texas on April 7th, but to get there, they’ll have to get past disappointments of bygone Marches and beat a pseudo “Cinderella” team. But hold on before you bill this matchup as Florida being the Goliath and Dayton the David.
“I just don’t think they should be called David because they beat Ohio State and they beat Syracuse two teams that have proven themselves historically and this season how good they are,” Florida center Patric Young said. “So if they go and beat them then maybe they should worry about us being underdogs for this game just saying with what they’ve been able to do with teams that are so good and so well known.”
The Flyers are unconventional, primarily seen in the fact that they routinely go Mariana Trench deep into their bench; in fact 12 players on Dayton’s roster have scored in double figures at least once this season. In Dayton’s Sweet 16 matchup against Stanford the Flyers showcased an ability to get to the rim with ease scoring 36 points of 82 total points in the paint against a Cardinal team heralded for their length.
“We really don’t see it as Cinderella teams” Florida forward Casey Prather said when asked if the Gators enjoy crushing glass slippers (like they did against Florida Gulf Coast in 2013). “These guys can beat anybody I’m sure they can beat us if we’re really not prepared for the game so we just focused on the things we can do to contribute to winning instead of the name across the jersey.”
David, Goliath, however you see the Gators it doesn’t matter. If they can get over the hump of the Elite Eight the name across their jerseys will sit just under a special patch during its next game; the patch will be the 2014 Final Four logo.
Florida is looking for its fifth all-time Final Four trip and its fourth under head coach Billy Donovan…Thursday’s win in the Sweet 16 was Billy Donovan’s 450th career victory…Florida’s win over UCLA is its 35th this season, tying a school record…Freshman Kasey Hill became the first frosh to record 10 assists in an NCAA Sweet 16 game since Jason Kidd did so in 1993…Michael Frazier II will look to extend his school-record for three pointers made in a single season in the Elite Eight game against Dayton…Florida is 12-9 all-time against Atlantic-10 teams…The Dayton game marks the first time Florida’s men’s and women’s basketball team have played the same school in the NCAA tournament in the same season…Dayton is making its third appearance in the Elite Eight all-time…Head coach Archie Miller is the first Flyer head coach to ever win his first three NCAA tournament games…Miller already has more NCAA tournament victories than the last three Dayton coaches had combined…Dayton is 24-3 this season when three or more players score in double figures…Dayton has won 13 of its last 15 games…Should the Flyers win, it would be their first trip to the Final Four since 1967…Dayton is 25-11 in the last seven years against BCS programs…This is the first meeting between the two schools.
On how far the team has come since the season’s tumultuous beginning
Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin:
Yeah, some of the issues that happened during the summer was part of what brought us together as a team. Just throughout the year, the type of games that we’ve been in and the grind of practice, it’s just really a combination of all those things bringing us together to the team that we are today.”
On his Sweet 16 performance
Florida center Patric Young:
Yeah, it was frustrating because I do as much as I can to try to prepare to put myself in a position to have a good game. I’ve just got to flush it, learn from it, move forward, have a good practice today, respond well, and go into the next game having amnesia.”
On chasing greatness
Florida guard Michael Frazier II:
I think chasing greatness is just being locked in every single moment. Not worrying about the past, not worrying about the future, just trying to dominate every possession and be our best.”
On defending the paint
Florida forward Will Yeguete:
I mean, we’re going to try to be disruptive tomorrow. Obviously, they’re a really good team inside. But we believe in ourselves. I think the guards are going to do a good job helping us as well. Just going to go for it, make sure we battling, and bring our energy to compete against those guys.”
On being a Cinderella stopper
Florida head coach Billy Donovan:
We never look at anything like that. It’s always about the opponent, what they do, what we have to do, getting prepared to play. We don’t really get wrapped up in how it gets labeled of who we’re playing against, what the seedings are. It has nothing to do with anything. Once the ball gets thrown up in the air, the best team is going to win it between the lines.”
On fan support
Dayton guard Jordan Siebert:
Campus has been crazy, just very excited for this moment. Everybody’s just enjoying it. For me, speaking on behalf of the team, I know that we’re just excited we’ve been able to be in this position and make our school proud.”
On team chemistry
Dayton guard Vee Sanford:
Our togetherness is something that we preached last year during this time. I believe we were working out, and we wanted to stress we want to be a good team, and good teams have good chemistry.”
Dayton forward Devin Oliver:
At this point in the tournament, I think to us, you’ve got to drop the seeding. It’s not about that. It’s about playing 40 minutes. It’s March. They’re obviously a good team, but we’re going to come out with confidence.”
On picking his brother’s (Arizona head coach Sean Miller) brain:
Dayton head coach Archie Miller:
He doesn’t talk to me right now. He’s not helping me. He’s trying to do his thing. But Florida, you see them a lot on television. You understand kind of what they’re about. You understand kind of their pedigree right now. They’re the number 1 overall seed for a reason. They’ve won 29 games in a row. I don’t know who can help me, to be honest with you.”