Sunday March 30, 2014 Basketball Notes: Lots more about the Final Four
Updated: 12:21pm, March 31
Updated: 12:21pm, March 31
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The other half of the 2014 Final Four field was locked up Sunday night, so let your orange and blue imaginations run wild.
The Florida Gators, ranked No. 1 in the nation and winners of 30 in a row after defeating Dayton 62-52 Saturday in the NCAA Tournament South Region title game, will face 18th-ranked Connecticut in Saturday’s national semifinals at 6:09 p.m. from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. UConn, of course, was the last team to defeat UF, handing the Gators a 65-64 road loss when guard Shabazz Napier, the MVP of the East Region, hit a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer way back on Dec. 2.
Yes, 118 days ago.
And in the event you’re comatose and not at all intrigued at the rematch prospect, well the other half of the Final Four may rattle your cage. No. 12 Wisconsin (30-7) gets suddenly surging Kentucky (28-10) for the rights to a national-championship game berth. That means if the Gators are fortunate enough to advance -- and don’t expect Coach Billy Donovan to provide much insight into that possibility when he’s asked about it a thousand times between now and Saturday -- they could face the only other team that beat them, the Badgers, or the Southeastern Conference nemesis Florida beat three times already.
Tumbleweeds blowing across the Texas plains will bump into Florida story angles, they're so many.
What a week it’ll be.
Let the “madness” continue.
WELCOME HOME, SOUTH REGION CHAMPIONS!
When the Gators' chartered flight from Memphis returned to Gainesville early Sunday morning, an estimated crowd of about 400 were at the airport to salute the team and celebrate the fifth trip to the Final Four, the fourth under Coach Billy Donovan and the first since 2007.
GatorVision was there to capture the moment.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE NOT BEEN
Monday will mark the one-year anniversary of Michigan totally smashing Florida 78-58 in the South Region title game last year. In the days that followed, little-used freshman guard DeVon Walker began pondering the possibility of transferring.
A month later, Walker announced he was leaving.
A week later, he announced he was staying.
"This is crazy,” Walker said Saturday in the locker room euphoria at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn. “I don't know what was going through my head when I was about to leave and all that. I'm glad I didn't. I thank God for that. I love these guys. It's never been like this before on a team and I don't know if it will ever be again. That's why we're trying to enjoy this moment. What we have here is special. I keep trying to find words, but it's feelings and stuff that you just can't explain."
That pretty much explains it.
Walker, the sophomore from Winter Haven, Fla., averaged just 2.5 points per game this season and combined to score just three over the last seven games after hitting 10 3-point shots over six games during a critical midseason run.
But Walker’s thinking bigger picture. He may have played only eight minutes against Dayton, missing his only two field-goal attempts and grabbing two rebounds, but he can’t begin to imagine what it would have been like being on another campus somewhere watching his former teammates going to the Final Four.
He played his role and helped deliver something great to his senior brothers.
“There was just this whole vibe. Everybody was focused like we were going to war,” Walker said. “The other guys aside from the four seniors, we knew we had to pull our weight because we knew they deserved it. We knew everybody in this room deserved it."
Here's a couple links to some national perspective of the Gators' defeat of Dayton; specifically on this senior class that, for some reason, getting an awful lot of attention these days. Maybe it's the 120 combined victories.
* Yahoo!'s Pat Forde summed up the journey of the four seniors that suffered and perservered through those three Elite Eight disappointments.
* ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan didn't see much similarity between the Gators in the 2014 regional title and the ones in the '11, '12 and '13 games.
* And SI.com's Pete Thamel with a terrific column about the growth of this senior class.
CHARTING THE GATORS
Billy D has now joined an elite group of just 16 coaches in college basketball history to go to four Final Fours. On this list, only three names (in boldface type) ever led their team to back-to-back national championships.
FFs Coach Schools Titles
12 John Wooden UCLA 10
11 Mike Krzyzewski Duke 4
Dean Smith North Carolina 2
7 Rick Pitino Providence (1), Kentucky (3), Louisville (3) 2
6 Denny Crum Louisville 2
Tom Izzo Michigan State 1
Adolph Rupp Kentucky 4
Roy Williams Kansas (4), North Carolina (2) 2
5 Bobby Knight Indiana 3
Guy Lewis Houston 0
Lute Olsen Iowa (1), Arizona (4) 1
John Calipari Massachusetts (1), Memphis (1), Kentucky (3) 1
4 Jim Boeheim Syracuse 1
Jim Calhoun Connecticut 3
Billy Donovan Florida 2
Jerry Tarkanian UNLV 1
Some stuff I saw pop up on my timeline that caught my eye maybe a little more some other Gators-centrist tweets.
This team is special. I thank God for everything this team has accomplished. God is so good thank you for allowing us to be #FINALFOURBOUND— Patric Young (@BigPatYoung4) March 30, 2014