Five differences in Florida's Elite teams

Florida forward Will Yeguete (15) scrambles for the ball with Pittsburgh forward Lamar Patterson (21) during the Gators' 61-45 win in the second round of the NCAA tournament on March 22 in Orlando.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 at 9:41 p.m.

This is the fourth straight year Florida is playing in an Elite Eight game. The first three didn't turn out well for the Gators, who lost 11-point leads in the second half to Butler in 2011 and Louisville in 2012 before being manhandled by Michigan last season. Will it be different this year? Here are five things that are different for the Gators this time around:

1. The Yeguete factor.

Two years ago, Will Yeguete missed the postseason with a foot injury. Last year, he was a shell of a player because of a knee injury that flared up. This year, he is healthy and doing all of the little things Billy Donovan wants from him. “It's hard to find guys that really kind of hang their hat on being kind of a dirty-work guy,” Donovan said, “and it's hard sometimes because certainly it doesn't really give them a lot of headlines. He's not a headline guy. But he really does a lot for our team.” Especially in the last two games. Yeguete had only eight points in the SEC tournament and Round of 64 games. But against Pittsburgh and UCLA, he has scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

2. The demeanor.

There were wild celebrations after the Gators closed out the regular season with a win over Kentucky and after they won the SEC tournament. But they have almost been subdued after each of their three wins in the NCAA tournament. "Personally, I don't feel like there's anything to enjoy," Michael Frazier II said. "You can't take a breath because every team now is a good team. We can enjoy what we've done after the season."

3. This team closes.

It's more than a trend or a characteristic. It's who they are. These Gators are doing more than winning close games during their 29-game winning streak. They're turning close games into comfortable wins by winning the last 10 minutes of every game. In the last quarters of their three NCAA games so far, Florida has outscored its opponents 62-43. And remember that in 2011 and 2012, the Gators blew double-digit leads in the last 10 minutes of their Elite Eight games.

4. Dealing with a darling.

When Florida lost to Butler, the Bulldogs were hardly a Cinderella program anymore. The 2011 Elite Eight game was the Bulldogs' 16th NCAA tournament contest in a five-year stretch and they had played in the national title game the year before. Louisville and Michigan would never be confused with someone wearing glass slippers. Dayton is another story. For years, the school has been known more for being the host of play-in games than anything. This is the first time in five years the Flyers are in the tournament and the first Elite Eight appearance since 1984.

5. It's the last shot.

This is the first group of seniors to make four Elite Eights at Florida. So they know the sting of coming up just short of their goal. No Florida team has had this much big-game experience, not even the national champions. These guys have been talking national title since early in the season.

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