"Virginia's a really good basketball team," Vitale said. "It was a blowout. It was unbelievable."
It happened, of course, with historically good defense; the 39 points Virginia scored were the fewest UF has ever allowed in the Tournament. And it happened without much production from leading scorer KeVaughn Allen.
"They're going to need him big-time in their next matchup against Wisconsin," Vitale said. "Obviously that's going to be a real battle, because Wisconsin executes."
The Badgers come into the East Regional semifinal with experience; this is their fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. …
"We put them in the garage," McElwain said. "You might want to ask them about that."
So I did.
"It's not as bad as it sounds," Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best said from his office in Cheney, Wash. "Don't try to doll us up like we were some barbaric people and barely survived this 96-hour ordeal."
So here's what it was really like, according to Best.
Best and six of his staffers flew on United from Spokane (a short drive from campus) to Denver to Tampa, then piled in a station wagon to drive the two hours to Gainesville.
After they got to McElwain's house, they saw their lodging situation.
"It's not your prototypical garage," Best said.
There was no flickering light bulb swinging from the ceiling. No parked cars, either. They had running water, soap and a toilet.
"There's no bad oil filters," Best said. "There's no rakes. There's no shovels. It's basically a living quarters they've made out of the garage setting." …
The Florida Gators' path back to the Sweet 16 was somewhat unlikely, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Not so much for their opponent, Wisconsin. The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for an NCAA-leading fourth year in a row.
1. They have a great 1-2-3 punch. Three players earned all-Big Ten honors: Forward Ethan Happ (first team), guard Bronson Koenig (second team) and forward Nigel Hayes (third team). All three average between 13.5 and 14.5 points per game, and Happ was also on the Big Ten's all-defensive team. Speaking of Happ...
2. Happ will be a touch matchup for UF. Or anyone, for that matter. "He's got size," Villanova coach Jay Wright told reporters before Wisconsin's 65-62 second-round win. "He can score over you, and if you have size on him, he can score around you with his ball handling. He's a great ball handler. He's a really tough matchup." Happ leads the Badgers in rebounds (9.1 per game) and assists (2.8). …
Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, has made a couple trips to Columbia in the past. In 2007, Tebow rushed for 120 yards and five touchdowns and passed for 304 yards and two more scores in a 51-31 victory. Two years later, he rushed for a touchdown and threw for another against the Gamecocks in a 24-14 win.
Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) and Florida Gators forward Devin Robinson (1) celebrates after their team defeated the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, March 18, 2017.
Nine months ago, the SEC was a football conference with a basketball problem.
Thanks to Alabama, the league had just won its eighth national title in a decade. The Crimson Tide and LSU looked like championship hopefuls in the fall.
And basketball? The conference had only three NCAA Tournament teams that March, including one that appeared in the play-in game. How to fix the problem was a key topic of discussion at the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese met with the league's coaches then to try to figure out some solutions.
A few random March Madness thoughts, a day after Florida and Florida State both advanced to the NCAA Tournament's second round, and a day before they try to reach the Sweet 16:
1. Florida-Virginia will be ugly. Maybe really, really ugly. Virginia has the nation's top scoring defense, allowing only 55.6 points per game. The Gators are in the top 50 in that category (66.6). The advanced metrics are even stronger - both teams are in the top four in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency. Add in the fact that UF's top two scorers finished 2-of-15 shooting yesterday, and the Cavaliers scored only 11 points in the first 13 minutes yesterday, and this could be painful.
2. The Seminoles look like the ultimate boom-or-bust team. FSU could lose to Xavier tomorrow by double digits or make the Final Four. Neither outcome would surprise me, or our Martin Fennelly, or the AP's Mark Long:
Is there any other top-4 seed in the NCAA tourney that can look soooo good for stretches and soooo bad for stretches? Or just FSU? …
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton oversees his team's public practice Wednesday at the Amway Center, where the Seminoles open NCAA Tournament play tonight.
The question posed to FSU coach Leonard Hamilton and his players seemed as inevitable as downtown Orlando gridlock.
How do you explain the differences between your January surge and late-season swoon?
The inquiry came at Hamilton and Co. twice Wednesday, both times with less conciseness and more tact. The 'Noles (25-8) went 5-1 against six consecutive nationally ranked foes from Dec. 31 to Jan. 21, but finished 7-6 down the stretch with four double-digit losses.
So what happened? "I think our mindset was hunting people (in the early stretch)," junior PG Xavier Rathan-Mayes said from the Amway Center, where the third-seeded 'Noles face No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast (26-7) in a West Region first-rounder tonight.
"We were trying to earn our respect as a program and as a group of guys. I think we did a really good job of going out there and performing at a high level each and every night."
But from there, human nature kicked in a little, Hamilton suggested. The likes of North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville were followed by Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Miami and Clemson.
FSU lost by 22 to the Yellow Jackets (managing only 15 first-half points) and by 10 against the Orange in the Carrier Dome.
"And we probably did have an emotional pause there for a minute, but a lot of it had to do with the quality of the teams we were playing," Hamilton said.
"We were playing in a league that everybody was prepared for you. So now you're getting everybody's best shot when you're sitting there ranked in the top 10 in the country."
Entering his program's first NCAA Tournament in five years, Hamilton insists that emotional-pause button has been disengaged.
"I think we're in a good place now," he said. "We'll put that in the past and let's see what we can do about the present."
ORLANDO - While the historic Valparaiso-Ole Miss buzzer beater won't have any influence on another 4-13 matchup - the Florida Gators' game today against East Tennessee State - UF coach Mike White does see one similarity.
"That one felt like it's felt this week honestly..." said White, a guard on the Rebels team that was on the wrong side of that Valpo loss. "It's been a tough week. Really tough week."
Ole Miss (a 4 seed) led late when Valpo's Bryce Drew drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 70-69 win. That 1998 game had everything - Drew playing for his father, a ridiculous shot, a Cinderella story. On the other side is White and a Rebels team that came within a miracle shot of earning its first ever NCAA Tournament win.
"But he hit that shot on us, and I remember sitting in that locker room it seems like for hours," White said. "For hours... …
GAINESVILLE - Don't worry about the coaches in black and red who were roaming around Tuesday's Florida Gators football practice.
They're just Eastern Washington staffers who happen to be crashing at UF coach Jim McElwain's house.
"They're sleeping in my garage," McElwain said.
Of course they are.
It's not unusual for coaching staffs to visit each other during the spring. They can network, talk Xs and Os and learn new techniques or drills. It's not surprising that Eastern Washington would want to stop by; the Eagles can probably learn a lot from an SEC staff.
Luke Del Rio will have surgery tomorrow on his right (throwing) shoulder.
GAINESVILLE - Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio will have surgery tomorrow on his right (throwing) shoulder, coach Jim McElwain said Tuesday.
Del Rio, who began last season as the starter, already had surgery this offseason on his other shoulder. McElwain said the latest procedure is just to clean up Del Rio's injury. It's not supposed to affect Del Rio's status for the fall.
"He'll be fine," McElwain said. "It's not major."
Del Rio started six games last year, finishing 114-of-201 passing for 1,358 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. The son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio missed two games with a knee injury, then missed the final five after injuring his shoulder at Arkansas.
With Del Rio out, redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask are battling this spring for the starting job.
In other injury news, McElwain said Rick Wells had successful leg surgery.
If the first game of March Madness begins with Erik Thomas dominating Mount St. Mary's tonight, no one in Pasco County should be surprised. Consider what the New Orleans star forward did at Wesley Chapel High.
As a senior for the Wildcats, Thomaas averaged 33 points and 16 rebounds, posted 27 double-doubles in 29 games and earned all-state honors (and our award as North Suncoast player of the year). It runs in the family. His older sister, Sthefany, left Wesley Chapel High as Pasco County's all-time leading scorer.
Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Miami Hurricanes and UCF Knights fans, welcome to the Sunshine State blog for all your news about your favorite college teams. It's written by the staff of the Tampa Bay Times. We invite your comments and participation.