Florida is set to begin its SEC Tournament Championship campaign this week. The Gators enter the tournament with a second place finish in league play and while they hope to bring the tournament crown back to Gainesville, they also want to earn a top-four seed and a chance to play in Orlando.
UF is going intro a game trying to shrug away its loss to Vanderbilt. According to White, on Monday the team had a meeting to regroup after the loss to the Commodores. The last time White and his players held a meeting like this? The team met the last time Florida lost to Vandy and it set to tone for the team's nine-game winning streak.
"It was really about setting the stage and taking in perspective about what’s around the corner, what are the potentials for this team," said White. "You’ve got to take it Friday night first, and that’s it. Obviously, the bigger picture is you’re playing for seeding, you’re playing potentially for an opportunity for a championship and all those things and you don’t have much time left. Hopefully, we can peak this week and play our best basketball, save our best basketball for right now. It’s going to take a ton of mental toughness, of course, with the quick turns, and mental focus, which hasn’t been one of our big strengths.”
The Gators will tip off their tournament journey on Friday night. Florida will face the winner of Thursday's matchup between Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. As mentioned above, Vandy has been quite the challenge for the Gators this year, with the team losing twice to the Commodores. Vanderbilt could once again be in UF's way. However, with the short turnaround White says he does not see any drastic changes to the way Florida plays.
"In the next couple of days, to be honest with you, we might tinker with some stuff, but nothing that I’m sure by Friday we’ll feel very confident in riding," said White. "We’ve got to try to do what we attempted to do the last couple of games a little bit better. We made fewer mistakes in Nashville. We’re up 12 with, I don’t know, 9 or 10, up 9 with 8 to go, and just couldn’t hang on, but our attention to detail has got to be better, our focus has got to be better. That said, they’re terrific. They’re really good. They’re just very difficult to defend.”
The Gators most likely need a win to lock up a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament and a chance to play in Orlando. White and company understand that is certainly a home field advantage.
"I think it'd be huge. I think it'd be awesome," White said. "The (NCAA selection) committee right now if they were to decide, I don't know, heck, we could be a 6 (seed). I could be way off. We could be a 3. I have no idea.
"I've kept it at this: If we finish really strong and we're playing really well, there's a chance we could open up the NCAA Tournament in Orlando in front of Gator fans," White added. "You see some smiles and you see some, 'Well, let's do it.' But we got to win Friday night."
Honor for White
White earned coach of the year honors this week after turning a team that held a 16-17 record in Billy Donovan's final season to a top 20 team this season. However, the Gators head coach did not want to take all the credit himself.
“Any time you get an award — and I don’t want to take it lightly — but I also understand awards follow good teams,” he said. “I have good players. I have a good team. I have a really, really good staff. And when your staff is a team themselves, they’re hitting on all cylinders and all pulling in the same direction, and you have good talent and you have good kids, you win games."