Florida Gators women’s basketball ready for the NCAA tourney

Special report on the Florida Gators women’s basketball team:

SRYACUSE, N.Y. - Florida returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014 and makes its 15th overall "Big Dance" appearance in program history. NCAA Tournament Skinny The No. 5-seeded Gators (22-8) play No. 12-seeded UAlbany (NY) on Friday, March 18, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., with tip-off scheduled for 12 Noon. Florida vs. UAlbany - at a Glance * This will be the first meeting between the two teams. Quick Shot: * UAlbany Great Danes (27-4, 15-1 America East) * Head Coach: Katie Abrahamson-Henderson (University of Iowa '90), Overall Record / at UAlbany: 240-107 (11) / 145-46 (6) * Last Time Out: Fri., March 11, vs. Maine (America East Final): W, 59-58 Gator Bytes vs. UAlbany * Florida owns a 6-0 all-time record against America East opponents, including a 2-0 mark under head coach Amanda Butler * Though they served at different times, Florida assistant coach Shimmy Gray-Miller (2000-03) and UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson (2007-08) both served as assistant coaches at the University of Washington * Abrahmason-Henderson also won an SEC title as a player during her freshman season at Georgia in 1985-86, her first of two seasons with the Bulldogs * Albany is 0-4 against current SEC programs * Albany is 1-3 against teams from Florida * Albany has won at least a share of the last five America East Conference regular season titles and it has won five consecutive America East Tournament crowns * Albany has logged five consecutive 20-win seasons * Albany's 27 wins are tied for its second-highest total in program history * Albany has won a league-record five straight America East Titles * Senior Shereesa Richards is a three-time America East Player of the Year * Abrahamson-Henderson has been named the America East Coach of the Year three times * This is the Great Danes fifth consecutive (and overall) trip to the NCAA Tournament * The Gator men's basketball team played UAlbany in the round of 64 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, with Florida earning the 67-55 victory in Orlando, Fla., en route to the Final Four. UAlbany's NCAA History * Appearances: 5 (2012-13-14-15-16) * Record (Best Finish): 0-4 (First Round) * Last NCAA Result: Lost to Duke, 54-52 in the first round, 2015 Something New * Florida has never played any of the other three teams competing in Syracuse. * The Gators are the only team at this NCAA site not from the state of New York. * Friday's game will be just the fifth time the Gators have played a game in the Empire State (3-1 record). Open the Flood Gates * If it's offense you like, then you've picked the correct NCAA first and second round site! * All four teams at Syracuse average at least 70 points per games, with Florida lighting the board for 78.0 points per outing. * Albany senior Shereesa Richards averaged 23.7 points per game and has compiled a eye-popping 2,403 career points and she's not even the leader at this NCAA pod! * Army West Point's Kelsey Minato is currently on a 111 game double-digit scoring streak and has a career point total of 2,546 - averaging 23.6 this season. Postseason the Norm Under Butler * Florida's inclusion in the 2014 NCAA field is the program's eighth postseason appearance in nine years under head coach Amanda Butler. * She is the only one of the eight Gator head coaches who has done so. * In fact, Butler is the only Gator head coach to earn a postseason berth in her first year with the program. Good When We Get There * In all seven previous trips to the postseason under coach Amanda Butler, the Gators have won at least their first round game. * Florida won a program-record four postseason games en route to the 2013 WNIT semifinals. Lean on Postseason Experience * While Florida has made a postseason trip in three of the last four years, the current group of Gators is a bit lean on postseason experience. * Of the 13 members on the roster, only January Miller, Carlie Needles, Cassie Peoples and Ronni Williams have played in any postseason game. But THEY Have Experience * Head coach Amanda Butler and assistant coach Murriel Page have logged more playing time in postseason games than any of the current members. * During her time as a Gator letter winner, Butler helped Florida earn its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth (1993) and followed that with another her senior year (1994), playing in all three games and totaling 65 minutes, 18 points, seven rebounds, nine assists with just two turnovers. * Page was an NCAA regular during her days as a Gator from 1995-98, which reached the NCAA Tournament every year, advancing to the 1997 Elite Eight and the 1998 Sweet 16. Page, who is Florida's all-time leading scorer in NCAA games, averaged 16.2 points and 9.1 rebounds during her 10-game NCAA span. Her 35-point, 16-rebound performance against the Tina Thompson-led Southern California Trojans in the NCAA second round remains one of the greatest individual showing in UF postseason history. Looking Ahead * The winner of the Florida-UAlbany first-round game meets the winner of the game between host and No. 4 seed Syracuse (25-7) and 13-seeded Army (29-2), in the second round on Sunday, March 20. Tough Teams * Of Florida's 30 games, 17 came against teams that earned a 2016 postseason berth. * Florida played 13 games against 10 different teams that earned an NCAA Tournament berth in 2016, posting a 6-7 record against those foes * The Gators played 4 games against 4 different teams against teams that are competing in the 2016 Postseason WNIT, logging a 3-1 record Florida's DEPTH at a Glance! * On the 13-player roster... * 10 Gators average at least 12.3 minutes of playing time per game * 9 Gators average at least 5.0 points per game * 11 Gators have made at least one three-pointer (Fleming and Lorenzen have never attempted a three-pointer). * 11 have started at least one game during their respective Gator careers, while 10 of the 13 have started at least once this season. * 9 DIFFERENT Gators have been UF's leading scorer in a game this season * 7 DIFFERENT Gators have been UF's leading rebounder in a game this season * 6 DIFFERENT Gators have scored 20 or more points in a game this season Balance, too! * UF ranks No. 14 in the nation in scoring offense (78.0 ppg), however, the team's leading scorers - junior Ronni Williams and freshman Eleanna Christinaki - average just 11.1 and 10.4 points per game, respectively. * Sophomore Haley Lorenzen averages 9.4 points, while senior Cassie Peoples and junior Simone Westbrook are close behind at 8.9 and 8.0 per game, respectively. Gator Watch * Ronni Williams, a postseason (and preseason) Second Team All-SEC performer, is UF's leading scorer (11.1 ppg) and rebounder (7.9 ppg). * In SEC games, Williams averaged team-bests of 8.8 rebounds per game, while netting 10.6 points. * Williams ranked No. 3 in the SEC for rebounding in league games * She has recorded eight double-doubles this season (13 in career) * Has 18 double-figure scoring games this year (most on team) * SEC Player of Week (honored Feb. 9) for 20-point, 15-rebound game vs. No. 12 Texas A&M - first such honor of career Game Day at a Glance * Who: #5 Seed Florida (22-8) vs. #12 Seed UAlbany (27-4) * Where: Carrier Dome (34,616) * Syracuse, N.Y. * When: Fri., March 18, 2016 * 12 Noon ET * What: 2016 NCAA First Round
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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.