The Florida men’s basketball team, SEC Champions, No. 1 overall seed and winners of 29 straight games have reached the point where its past three seasons have come to an end, the Elite Eight. The Gators are now one win away from claiming the South region as theirs and advancing to Dallas, Texas and the Final Four.
Florida’s final opponent in the South region is the Dayton Flyers. The Flyers have reached the Elite Eight by defeating Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford.
Dayton finished its regular season 26-10, but eight of the 10 losses came before the month of February. Teams always want to peak at the right time, and it seems as though Dayton is doing just that. In their most recent game versus Stanford, they were able to outscore Stanford’s bench 34-2 showing their depth in roster talent. The Flyers are led in scoring by junior guard Jordan Sibert and senior forward Devin Oliver, but see plenty of production from younger players Khari Price, Dyshawn Pierre and Jalen Robinson.
On Friday, when asked about being this year’s “Cinderella team”, Dayton head coach Archie Miller said they don’t focus on it.
“We just talk about what needs to be done; we keep it simple. When you start making things bigger than it is, they look at you funny. We don’t talk about it a whole lot,” Miller said. “If they wanna call us a ‘Cinderella’ every year and we get to the Elite 8, I’ll take it.”
As for Florida, these seniors (and everyone on the team) understands not only what’s at stake, but also the strength of their opponent. The Gators take the same approach to every game and that seems to be the team that wants it the most will win regardless of seed, record, talent or anything else.
“We try to play every game the same way and play every game with same intensity regardless of who we’re playing,” Scottie Wilbekin said. “What we try to do is not focus on who we’re playing but focus on us and on how we need to play in order to advance.”
Getting into some statistics, UF’s Patric Young was held to just four points and three rebounds in the Gators’ victory over UCLA; he was also forced to sit out most of the game in foul trouble, playing only 20 minutes. When asked about the frustration of not being able to play, Young said it was just his night to play cheerleader for his guys, but that he’ll have to adjust and be better prepared for the next game.
“It was frustrating because I do whatever I can to prepare and put myself in a position to have a good game,” Young said. “I’ve just got to flush it, learn from it, move forward have a good practice, respond well and go into next game with amnesia.”
Dayton is averaging 65 points per game in this tournament, while Florida is averaging 56 points given up.
The Gators should be the best defensive team Dayton has seen all year, but will still need good offensive production from Michael Farzier II, Dorian Finney-Smith and Kasey Hill to keep up with Dayton’s shooters.
Tip off is set for 6:09 EST.
For audio on the quotes above, click here: