Tampa? Really?

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Tampa seems to be the focus of so many fans and media who cover the Florida basketball team. Can the Gators win enough down the stretch to land in Tampa at the St. Pete Times Forum for the NCAA Tournament?

Is it really that big a deal?

Certainly, you want Florida to get the highest possible seed. I get that. But two things about Tampa — 1. Florida’s history in that arena is less than stellar; and 2. Gator fans really don’t show up there.

Now, to debunk my two points — 1. What past teams have done there has nothing to do with this team; and 2. The last two times UF has played there, the Gator Nation hasn’t been that fond of the team that was suiting up.

One of Billy Donovan’s lowest moments as a coach came at the Forum when his second-seeded team lost 68-46 to a 12-loss Michigan State team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. I remember a few weeks later sitting in Billy’s office and he said, “Dools, before the game everyone said Michigan State would be too physical for us. Then they were too physical. And now I’m a bad coach?”

Point taken. But he was killed by the members of the state media who were basically seeing Florida play for the first time that season.

Two seasons ago, a Florida team that needed a couple of wins to make the Dance was beaten by an awful Auburn team in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Hello, NIT. The crowd in Tampa was hardly pro-Gator. To be honest, it was embarrassing.

Last season, the Gators returned to Tampa to play a very good Syracuse team. The Gators held their own before losing 85-73. There were more Syracuse fans than Florida fans in the crowd.

My point (I think) is this — while it may be great for the media and the fans if the Gators go to Tampa, I think there is a level of excitement for the players if they go somewhere else. In the end, remember this about the NCAA Tournament — it matters more who you are playing than where you are playing. The tournament is always about matchups more than venues.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I didn’t understand the logic behind the article. Don’t win enough games now so that we don’t end up in Tampa so that we can win more later in another place? Are you really thinking? And if who you play is more important than where you play, then whether we play in Tampa, or not, doesn’t really matter right?

  2. I think the point here is that playing in Tampa may not be as great as it sounds. The advantages you hope to have in playing close to home against national competition historically hasn’t really seemed to be a factor .

  3. The thought of playing in Tampa worried me when it first came up just based on our results playing around the state the last few seasons, but I do believe it is much more about the opponent than the place, so it may as well be close enough to attend. I was at the ‘Cuse game and even with a strong NY crowd it was a great atmosphere and nice arena to be at. I’m even starting to believe that this team’s got a good shot wherever it plays. Go Gators.

  4. I was at the Syracuse game last year and there were a number of their fans but it is not true that they exceeded Gator fans. At any rate how can you possibly count them beyond a guesstimate. That type of statement is not journalism but a wild and unsubstantiated opinion. Tampa is very easy to access to thousands of Gator fans that live within a couple of hours drive. I will be there and so will be many Gator supporters of this hard working team that has shown it can win in any court.

  5. You guys can’t be too tough on Dools. It’s been a tough couple of years for Dools. Finding the balance between the perspective that makes you fresh and being a homer is tough on the downhill slide. Florida was so high not only was there no place to go but down, the chances of a crash at that speed were pretty high. Dools will be back. So will Florida.

  6. That is ridiculous, there are FAR more Gators in Tampa Bay then any other. This team has an excitement factor that people are really starting to get attached to and will show up for in droves in Tampa. I was there for a game against FAMU a few years ago and 10,000 people were there.

    There is a lot of excitement right now for UF coming to Tampa.