Florida receives better than projected No. 7 seed for NCAA tourney

David Whitley
Gator Sports
Sophomore point guard Tre Mann leads the Gators and is an All-SEC first-team selection.

Florida knew it was going to the NCAA Tournament before the Gators gathered around the TV on Sunday. Players even knew they'd be flying to Indianapolis for their first game later this week.

The only drama during the Selection Show was who the opponent would be and how high the Gators would be seeded.

How does Virginia Tech and 7 hit you?

“Excited to play an ACC opponent, really," coach Mike White said. "Didn’t know if we’d be a seven, eight, nine. I thought we’d land somewhere in there."

How to watch:Florida Gators men's basketball vs. Virginia Tech

More:Scouting UF's NCAA first-round opponent: Virginia Tech Hokies

More:Florida receives No. 7 seed in NCAA Tournament, to play Virginia Tech

Gators avoid early matchup with No. 1 seed

Considering how things have gone lately, No. 7 was a pretty good landing spot. The Gators avoided an 8 vs. 9 matchup, which are essentially toss-ups. Teams seeded No. 9 have won 48.8% of games since the tournament expanded in 1985.

Florida also avoids a potential second-round matchup against No. 1 seed Baylor, which won the Big 12 Tournament on Sunday. Instead, it would likely face No. 2 Ohio State, which lost the Big Ten title game Sunday.

The Gators aren't thinking that far ahead. Their big concerns are the Hokies and regaining some form for Friday's game.

Virginia Tech is 15-6 after losing to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.

The Hokies were the preseason pick to finish 11th in that league, but they won their first seven ACC games.

Like Florida, this is Virginia Tech's fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. It's their first under coach Mike Young, who was hired in 2019 after Buzz Williams took the Texas A&M job.

More:March Madness 2021: Print and fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket

More:Play USA Today's Brackets

The Hokies are led by forward Keve Aluma, who's averaging 15.6 points and eight  rebounds a game. Young said guard Jalen Cone might miss the first-round game due to an injured ankle.

As to when and where that game will be, the NCAA was still working on those details Sunday night. It is a South Region game, though the regions are in name only this year because every game will be played in Indiana.

It's March Madness, COVID-19 style, with teams not traveling farther than their hotels to venues for games and practices. Games will be played at five arenas, and the NCAA Is allowing 25% capacity for all rounds.

Starting with the Elite Eight, all the games will be at Lucas Oil Stadium, where 17,500 can attend.

Hokies have had to deal with plenty in 2020-21

Every team has had to deal with COVID-19 problems all season, but the Hokies have had to deal with more than most.

Their ACC Tournament game was just their third game since Feb. 6, and they had breaks of 17 days and 13 days along the way.

Florida hasn't had any games canceled down the stretch, but the Gators have had plenty of other issues.

They've lost three of their last four games and sputtered offensively when guard Tre Mann wasn't on fire.

"We’re just struggling a little bit with the overall offensive production and effectiveness," White said. "Tre really just kind of bailed us out some of these possessions, especially in the last game where he made it interesting against the Volunteers."

Mann scored 30 points in the loss to Tennessee, but he was held to two points in the first half as the Vols took command of the game.

For what it's worth, this will be Florida's third NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed. It lost in the first round in 1989 and made the Elite Eight in 2012 from that spot.

Only one No. 7 seed — UConn in 2014 — has won the tournament.

"I thought we were playing really well up until these past couple weeks," White said. "Hopefully, we can regain some momentum, some offensive continuity, offensive rhythm as we get one more shot at it. It’s do or die."

Up next

What: NCAA Tournament, South Region, first round

Who: Florida (14-9) vs. Virginia Tech (15-6)

When: 12:15 p.m. Friday.

Where:Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

TV: CBS

Radio: WRUF