UF earns No. 7 seed in NCAAs
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Ask third-year Virginia coach Tony Bennett about the personality of his team, and he'll tell you about a group that's come together.
WHAT: NCAA Tournament, West Region 2nd round
WHO: Florida vs. Virginia, 2:10 p.m.
WHERE: Omaha, Neb.
“It's resilient,” Bennett said. “We've faced our number of injuries. They've been through a lot. They're far from perfect, but they play with great pride.”
As the number 7 seed in the West Region, Florida will face 10th-seeded Virginia on Friday in Omaha, Neb.
The matchup will feature a contrast in styles. Virginia (22-9) finished the regular season leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring defense, allowing just 53.7 points per game. Florida finished second in the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense at 76.3 points per game.
Florida has all five starters averaging double-figures in scoring, led by Kenny Boynton's 16.3 points per game. All five of UF's starters have scored 20 or more points in at least one game this season.
Virginia relies heavily on scoring from All-ACC first team senior forward Mike Scott, who averaged 18.1 points per game. The 6-foot-8, 237-pound Scott took 23 shot attempts in Virginia's ACC Tournament quarterfinal loss against North Carolina State.
“He's a versatile scorer,” Bennett said. “He's carried us in a lot of ways.”
Starting guard Joe Harris (11.5 ppg) is the only other Virginia player that averages double figures in scoring.
Both teams have lost role players to the same injury. Florida lost sophomore reserve forward Will Yeguete to a broken foot the last week in February, while Virginia lost freshman guard Malcolm Brogdon to a broken foot the first week in March.
Bennett said Florida has “elite” talent and is concerned about Virginia's ability to guard the 3-point line. Florida enters NCAA Tournament play leading Division I in 3-pointers made (9.9 ppg).
“The key is not to let their shooters get into a rhythm,” Bennett said. “The percentages drop when you contest shots and our defensive rebounding is going to have to be strong. You can't allow any long rebounds.”
Florida is making its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and 12th in the last 16 seasons under Billy Donovan. If the Gators win, they will face the winner of No. 2 seed Missouri and No. 15 seed Norfolk State at the Qwest Center.
"It's always an honor to be part of the NCAA Tournament, and we're excited about playing,” Donovan said in a statement. “We know we have a great challenge ahead of us in Virginia and look forward to competing on this stage."
Florida has NCAA Tournament experience, with Boynton and fellow starting guard Erving Walker having each played in five career NCAA Tournament games. Boynton had one of the best games of his career in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 27 points in UF's first-round 2010 loss to BYU
“We've been there before but I think everyone is going to step up,” Boynton said. “It's a long season … we're going to need everyone and I think everyone is going to be ready to play.
Virginia is making its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in Bennett's third season. Bennett, though, has NCAA Tournament coaching experience, having led Washington State to the second round of the tournament in 2007 and the Sweet 16 in 2008.
Freshman guard Bradley Beal, who grew up in St. Louis, will get a chance to play back in the Midwest. Beal said since growing up as a kid, he's always dreamed of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“We have to come in and play hard every game because from here on out, it's not going to get any easier,” Beal said. “We really just have to bear down on both ends of the floor and stick to our gameplan.”
Florida is currently accepting ticket orders for its NCAA Tournament games in Omaha, Neb.
Cost is $89 per session. Orders must be placed by 5 p.m. on Monday. Total cost for both sessions is $178 plus a $10 processing fee. Tickets can be purchased online (www.gatorzone.com/tickets), by calling (352)-375-4683 ext. 6800 or by walking up to the Gator ticket office at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The Florida allotment is 550 tickets, and Gator booster priority points will be used if tickets are oversold. All tickets will be handed out at the Qwest Center will call booth. A photo ID is required to pick up tickets.
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