3/30: Florida and Michigan prepare for Elite Eight

By Adam Silverstein
March 30, 2013

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will face the (4) Michigan Wolverines (29-7) on Sunday at 2:20 p.m. live on CBS from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. On Saturday, both coaches and their players met with the media to discuss the upcoming showdown.


Florida’s accomplish of reaching three-straight Elite Eights certainly should not be overlooked, but the Gators also face the possibility of being the first team in NCAA history (since the tournament expanded to at least 64 teams) of falling in the round three years in a row. Asked Saturday if the experience of those losses will benefit Florida this time around, Donovan somewhat dismissed the notion.

“The opportunity, I think these guys are all excited about it and I’m excited for them to be back in this position again. It’s a different opponent than we’ve had the last two years. It’s a great opportunity. I’m not so sure what we take from those situations that could really help us get prepared for Michigan,” he said.

“This game stands on itself. It’s got its own separate identity as itself. It’s in the moment. It’s now. It’s here. It’s present. I think these guys have been in this situation. They’ve worked very, very hard to get here, but they also know when you get into this situation it’s a great, great challenge. And you cannot play 20 or 25 or 30 minutes, you’re going to have to play a whole complete game. I believe when you get to this point in the time in the season there’s eight teams left, these eight teams are playing very, very good basketball. And in these moments you’ve also got to play very well.”

Junior center Patric Young, a freshman during the Gators’ first Elite Eight loss in 2011, echoed his coach’s sentiments but said the heartbreak will only further motivate Florida.

“We remember the feeling we’ve had in the locker room from losing those two games to go to the Final Four the last two years, but I’m not sure exactly what we could take going forward with Michigan,” he said. “But we can play for 40 minutes, making sure we’re locked in, playing together, fighting through the adversity, because it’s going to be a difficult challenge game for us and make sure that we’re locked into doing our job.”

Seniors guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy each seemed to indicate that the 2013 team as constructed is better prepared this time around. Though that may not result in a victory, the Gators are obviously plenty confident heading into the game.

“This team, we prepared the right ways for games consistently, not saying the previous teams haven’t, but I think everybody on the team contributes,” Boynton said. “I think even the freshmen, they don’t get in much, but they do a great job at preparing us, giving us a great look from the other team at practice. So with this team I would just say we have good preparation for games. And we know how to put games behind us and move forward to the next.”

Added Murphy: “Everybody from top to bottom is really committed to doing their job and whether that’s preparing or playing or whatever it is, this group is just really close. And obviously it’s a different team than the past, we have different guys. But I think we’ve really come together this year and have a really good bond within the team and our chemistry is great. We just all want to do it for each other.”


Though Michigan certainly got more sleep and therefore more time overall between games, both it and Florida are basically on a 36-hour turnaround between their Sweet 16 games and the Elite Eight showdown on Sunday. Both coaches agreed Saturday that the situation is not ideal but the hand their teams have been dealt.

“It is what it is,” Donovan said. “We don’t set the schedules, the times or things like that. … I just believe that you’ve got to focus on what you’re going to do. We have a responsibility to be here [Saturday] and we’ve got a practice here [Saturday]. We’ve got to get ourselves prepared and ready to go.

“Whether or not we’re a little groggy, we’re a little bit tired, we’re in the Elite Eight and I’d rather be here tired and groggy than home very rested and very, very excited about doing nothing. For us, we’re pleased and thankful that we get a chance to play again. Is it a tough turnaround, getting back like we did and coming back here [Saturday]? Absolutely. But I think if you asked any of our players would you rather do that or be at home, they’d say they’d rather be here. We’re excited we’re here and playing.”

Said Beilein: “It’s always a quick turnaround, not like your conference tournament, but pretty quick when you think that even if you play a 6:37 game, we didn’t get back really to the hotel until 11:30 last night with all the testing afterwards and the media. So we’re trying to get them to absorb as much information as we can on our next opponent, great opponent and get as ready as we can. … With an early afternoon game [Sunday], we’ve got to rely on a lot of the instincts and a lot of things we’ve done earlier in the year. They grasped what we did well today and now we’ve just got to rest a little bit and come out and play a really, really good Florida team.”


Sunday’s showdown will be billed as the Gators’ dominant defense going up against the Wolverines’ powerful offense. In actuality, Florida scores as well as almost any team in the country but is certainly outclassed a bit by Michigan on that side of the ball.

According to KenPom.com, the Wolverines have the No. 1 adjusted offense in the country (121.4 points per 100 possessions) and will go up against the Gators’ No. 2 adjusted defense (83.1). Florida, however, also boasts the No. 5 adjusted offense nationally (118.6) compared to Michigan’s No. 45 adjusted defense (93.0).

» Donovan on the Wolverines’ offense: “Clearly from an offensive efficiency standpoint they may be the best in the country. They’ve got a guy in the backcourt, [Trey] Burke, that is just terrific. Great assist-turnover ratio, explosive scorer and certainly with him he has got a great ability to get everybody involved. Whether it’s [Mitch] McGary up front, [Tim] Hardaway, [Glenn] Robinson on the perimeter…and offensively to take over a game like [Burke] did in the second half with Kansas. This is a great challenge, maybe the best offensive team in the country.”

» Beilein on the Gators’ defense: “I think Billy would probably say [these are] best defensive people he’s ever had. We’re having trouble finding spots that we can attack. It has to do a lot with the matchups, the makeup of the team, the experience of the team. But they’re going to be challenging. They’re not turning teams over a great deal. They’re just guarding their yard. They’re just staying in front of people and contesting and not getting a lot of second opportunities as well.”


» Donovan on if the Gators have been overlooked: “I tell our guys this: We’ve got enough to worry about and prepare for going from game to game. Those are not things that we can control. What we can control is how we prepare and how we play in between the lines. We’re excited to keep on advancing and to keep moving through the tournament. But maybe rightfully so – from a public perception or media excitement – maybe Florida Gulf Coast captivated the country because of getting to the Sweet 16. It was the first time it happened. But like I told our guys, it’s got nothing to do with our business and what we need to do. These guys need to continue [working hard], and they’ve done a good job. We need to focus on what we can control. And we can’t control who writes articles on us, who gives us exposure, who talks about us, who doesn’t talk about us. I think you earn respect by how you play and compete on the court. These guys have to go out there and worry and focus on the things that they can control and things that they can prepare for and what we’ve done all year long is take care of Florida, take care of ourselves, do your job, take care of your responsibilities.”

» Boynton on if Florida has been overlooked: “As a team, our team, we just don’t worry about things like that. I think up to point we’ve done a good job preparing for our game. So what’s on TV or who is being talked about, I don’t think that’s really important with our team. Because when we get on the court it’s just us versus the other team, regardless of what’s on TV.”

» Donovan on his familiarity with Beilein: “I competed against John’s teams when he was at Canisius, at West Virginia, we haven’t played against each other for a while. I’ve always admired and respected him as a coach. I think he’s innovative on offense. They pass the ball, they share it. I think those things, when you watch a team play offensively, there’s always a reflection of the coach and how they want them to play. I think the situations they put you in, the way they move the floor, space the floor, the way they run in transition. I just admire their team, admire him as a coach and admire the way they’ve played. And that’s talking over several years of getting a chance of playing against his team sometimes.”

» Beilein on his familiarity with Donovan: “Way back, when I was the new coach at Canisius and he was the new coach at Marshall, we ended up taking a trip to Portugal. We didn’t get to play each other but met there, played that year in the Cincinnati tournament. And they played us at West Virginia and we played them down in Miami in a neutral site game. Their match up press was very big at that time and they did a tremendous job with it. Just always really a well coached team that was really well scouted. That was another thing, they always knew a lot more about us than maybe other teams did. So always well prepared.”

» Donovan on Rosario: “Mike’s the kind of guy where if you give an inch, he will work to get it to six inches and he’ll work to get it to be a foot and before you know it, I’m actually one of the players and he’s coaching the team.”

» Donovan on recruiting McGary, who chose Michigan over Florida (his final two): “I love Mitch as a kid. What a great kid. The thing I loved about him and just watching him and recruiting him, phenomenal teammate, great enthusiasm for the game, incredible personality. I’m not surprised that wherever he would have gone he could step in and provide what he is able to provide. You look at him here of late scoring a lot of points late and maybe not scoring like that during the Big Ten season. But he’s that kind of kid. He does whatever your team needs for it to be successful. And I think he really has internally some very, very unique and great qualities about him. But I’m not surprised about what he’s been able to do at all.”

» Donovan on himself as a defender in college: “I certainly was not a good defensive player. We played a lot of 2 3 zone in college with Coach [Rick] Pitino, and he referred to me as ‘the human sieve’ when I played. That probably wasn’t one of my strong suits.”


  1. Ted says:

    Have they smelted the bronze for Donovan yet?

  2. Tom Ambrose says:

    Great piece Adam

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