No complacency with these Gators

The Florida Gators have been the top ranked team in the country for a few weeks. Now that the NCAA Tournament has started, that number one ranking and the "overall top seed" has taken on an even bigger feel. The seniors on Florida's squad have seen plenty of success in four years including three SEC titles and three previous visits to the Elite Eight. They don't plan on letting their guard down.

Florida faces Albany on Thursday in a number one seed versus a number 16 seed. The Gators are picked to win big on Thursday and in fact the odds on favorites to win the entire tournament after being named the top team in the tournament.

The first thing to consider for this team is that everyone in the tournament is capable of winning any individual game. Florida has lost games before to less talented teams, but the same ball is used to shoot for both teams, the basket is just as high on both ends of the court, and the score starts at 0-0 when the buzzer sounds. They still have to play the game and at a high level.

"We try not to think about that," Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said Thursday to a throng of reporters covering the tournament. "Coach D does a good job reminding us that no matter what the rankings are every year, there (are) upsets. So it really doesn't matter once the ball goes up. Anything can happen. Anybody can beat anybody, so we've got to be on our toes no matter what."

It is always a big thing for national media to talk about a number one seed has never lost to a number 16 seed in the tournament. But, until a couple of years ago, a number two seed had never lost to a 15 seed either. That isn't the case anymore.

"They definitely can beat us," senior forward Casey Prather said. "They're a good team. We've just got to be ready, do a good job with scouting and preparation. But like Scottie said, anybody can beat us in this tournament, so we got to be ready from the get go."

Florida head coach Billy Donovan doesn't buy the idea that the game is not losable.

"They've earned the right to play the game," he said of Albany. "They've had a heck of a year. They've gone into their conference tournament and they had to win a championship game on the road. I think that says a lot about their kids' character. It says a lot about the job that Will (Brown) has done.

"For our basketball team it has nothing to do for us about seeding or anything else. The only thing that matters is how well we prepare to get ready to play tomorrow afternoon and how well we play in between the lines. Our team and our coaching staff have great respect for Albany and what they've done and how they've performed certainly coming down the stretch and really the whole year.

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"And I think Will has done a great job building that program and getting Albany almost on a regular basis into the NCAA Tournament. You've got to give them a lot of credit for that. Our guys have an enormous amount of respect and fully expect a great challenge and battle at 4:00 tomorrow."

Florida has really had more success in the previous three years than any other team out there. They haven't gotten over that final hump, but according to senior Patric Young, it wasn't a case of bot being in the right frame of mind as each of the last three seasons ended in the Elite Eight. The key according to Young is to stay on the same path as always.

"Our first three years here, we were never the No.1 team in the country, and when we finally achieved that this year, we were just like, everything is the same, nothing has really changed," Young said. "Really we've done as a team, the environment, and the atmosphere has been taking it one game at a time. We have no control over what people are saying about us, what's going on outside of our program. We just have to be focused on getting better every day, getting closer to one another, pushing, competing, and doing that, the results and everything else that comes with it, the history, the records we've broken, the 21 0 in all conference games, all that has come with it. We're just going to continue to do what's been working, and hopefully we can achieve the ultimate goal."

Billy Donovan says the same thing. He is not letting outside influences come in and damage what he and his team have going.

"We're going to focus on what we've always done," Donovan said. "We're not going to change routine. It's the same thing we've done all year long… Everything that we're focusing on is what we have the responsibility to do, and that's to prepare, to practice and to get ready to play against Albany right now, and that's kind of where we've kept our focus."

For three years straight the Gators have entered the NCAA tournament a lower seed than they are now and have moved on to the round of eight only to lose that fourth game in each of the three years. The seniors at Florida believe this year will be different and it has to do everything with the fact that they have been through all of those wars before.

"The teams we've been on the last three years, they haven't been as connected and haven't had as much chemistry as this teams has had," Young said. "We really enjoy playing with one another, and I think if we get that opportunity, if we're blessed to have that chance to go to the Final Four, I think each and every guy is going to make sure we lay it out on the line and come ready to go. I mean, all we can do is just make sure that we go out there and when we walk off the court make sure we have no regrets and give it our best shot."

"I agree with Pat that this year's team is different than all the other teams I've been on here," Wilbekin said. "I think we have more leadership and more experience than any other team, and as far as what happened those last three years, I don't know, and to be honest, I don't really care because we're not thinking about that. Nobody on our team or on the coaching staff is thinking about the last couple of years. We're just focused on this game. Like you said, it might be cliché, but that's all we think about is the next game, and that's Albany, and we have to win that game to advance to the next round, so that's all we're focused on."

It is what this team has used all year long. They have entered every game without complacency. There is no sense of they are the better team and they just need to show up to win. They have won more than their fair share of close games and that comes with knowing your teammates and believing in them. It comes with the ability to compartmentalize issues that happen in a game and moving on from them. It comes with having four seniors that have been in three Elite-Eights and want to move beyond that.

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