Seeding Could Motivate the Gators

Billy Donovan has a unique situation with his team. They still have a stigma of struggling to handle success, and it's hard to have more success than being awarded with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The challenge comes in making the team not feel satisfied. The criticism of Florida being over-seeded might actually work in Donovan's favor, giving him something to use to motivate his team.

"With this group, none of these guys have won a game in the NCAA tournament, and I hope that in itself is motivation and fuel for them to really be focused and understand the importance of going from one game to the next," Donovan said.

They tasted success last season by making the NCAA Tournament after missing it in back-to-back years. Florida's reward was a first round exit at the hands of 37 points from BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.

"I felt like our guys went into that game not just satisfied to be there," Donovan said. "I'm happy for our guys. I think when you go to a different phase of the season, it gives you an opportunity to look back. I think what our guys have done in a non-conference schedule and winning an SEC Championship, coming up a little short yesterday against Kentucky. These guys have earned, I think, the right to play in the NCAA Tournament. Now it's a different season all together."

The first test on comes on Thursday at 6:50 against UC Santa Barbara. The Gators take on a team that surprised many by winning the Big West conference tournament. The Gauchos came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed, and they upset No. 1 seed Long Beach in the conference championship to clinch their second straight NCAA Tournament berth.

If Florida wins that game, it will take on the winner of No. 7 seed UCLA and No. 10 seed Michigan State. The second round game will be played on Saturday.

The challenge comes in playing games with only one day of rest in between, but the Gators have done it already this season. Florida is 3-2 this season with one or less days to rest before a game, with both losses coming to Kentucky.

"We've played sometimes this year with one day in between prep, so to speak in our league, Thursday, Saturday games couple of times, even our non-conference schedule we've had one-day preps," Donovan said. "But this group's never won a game in the NCAA Tournament here in Florida. So it's a great challenge, a great opportunity, and we'll have to play well."

SEC TOURNAMENT WRAP UP: The main thing Donovan wants his players to learn from the SEC Tournament is improving on their play early in the game. Florida got off to a slow start against Tennessee and Vanderbilt in the first two games, but it was able to fight back and win.

In an NCAA Tournament environment where one game can end your season, the Gators might not be so fortunate.

"I think it's all about what you learn from your past experiences of how you get better from your past experiences," Donovan said. "We've got to learn from some slow starts against Tennessee and Vandy. We've got to learn that if the ball's not dropping, there are still some other things that we've got to try to find a way to do."

The disappointment in the Kentucky game in the SEC Tournament Championship came at the free throw line. The Gators struggled with free throw shooting early in the season, but the issues on Sunday game with just getting to the line. Florida shot only eight free throws, and Donovan would like to see their level of physical play increase.

"I thought we had an opportunity on several possessions and several occasions in the game to get fouled and get ourselves," Donovan said. "And sometimes the best way to manufacture points when you're having a tough time scoring is by getting fouled. You can offset a tough shooting night if you get fouled. I didn't think we got fouled enough in the game at all, and we didn't get to the free-throw line enough. We needed to be more physical and around the basket. We missed a lot of shots around the basket."


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