Gators not taking tourney lightly


Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.

With a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament already assured, it would be easy for No. 1 Florida to write off the Southeastern Conference tournament this week and prepare for the next step.

Facts

GATOR GAME

* What: No. 1 Florida vs. Missouri or Texas A&M in SEC quarterfinals

* When: 1 p.m. Friday

* Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

* TV: ESPNU

* Information: Visit www.gatorzone.com/basketball/men/.

But for Florida's seniors, the chance to cut down the nets in Atlanta is personal, a last notch in a belt full of accomplishments.

UF's seniors have won three of four SEC regular-season titles, but have been unable to win an SEC tournament title in their first three seasons on campus.

The Gators will begin that quest Friday afternoon in the SEC tournament quarterfinals at 1 p.m. in the Georgia Dome against the winner of the game between Missouri and Texas A&M.

"We have some time to prepare and get ourselves better," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Florida, which retained the No. 1 ranking in the country for the third straight week, will come into the tournament as heavy favorites. The Gators are the only ranked team remaining in the SEC after knocking off Kentucky 84-65 on Saturday at the O'Connell Center. Florida (29-2, 18-0 SEC) has won a school-record 23 straight.

In its previous two trips to the SEC tournament as No. 1 seed, the Gators lost 70-54 in the 2011 finals to Kentucky and 66-63 in the 2013 finals to Ole Miss.

By locking up a No. 1 seed, the Gators will almost definitely open the NCAA tournament on March 20 in Orlando. But Donovan said that won't change UF's approach heading into the SEC tournament.

"There's not going to be anything from our perspective where you sit there and say, 'OK, because it's Sunday, let's bail on this tournament early,'" Donovan said. "We're not going to do that."

Awards

Florida’s perfect Southeastern Conference season resulted in a bevy of individual awards from the league Tuesday.

Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was named SEC player of the year, while Billy Donovan was named SEC coach of year, the league announced.

Wilbekin is the second player in UF history to earn SEC player of the year honors, joining Chandler Parsons, who won the award in 2011. Wilbekin averaged 12.9 points, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals for the Gators while often guarding the best perimeter player on the opposing team.

Kevin Brockway is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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