College Basketball: Gators Are Finally Home from St. Louis

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 13, 2018 | Go to article overview

College Basketball: Gators Are Finally Home from St. Louis


At least Florida coach Mike White could joke about his team's predicament: getting stranded about 900 miles from home after the Southeastern Conference Tournament because the team's chartered airplane was on a military mission.

This was Arch Madness.

"Had a nice spring break up in St. Louis, fighting the cold weather," White said Monday. "It's crazy. We spent four nights in a hotel to play one game. If our guys aren't rested for practice, I don't know if we'll ever be rested."

The 23rd-ranked Gators found themselves stuck in Missouri following an 80-72 setback against Arkansas on Friday in the SEC quarterfinals. Then the waiting began.

Florida's charter plane was called to the Middle East to assist troops, leaving players, coaches, staff, cheerleaders and band members stuck in a hotel for two extra days.

Given how Florida (20-12) performed defensively against the Razorbacks, maybe the biggest surprise is that White didn't find a way to get his team to a gym for extra work.

The Gators finally got on a plane Sunday afternoon about 40 hours after the game ended but only after a few more delays. They had to wait for a rested flight crew, a mechanical repair and finally some de-icing.

They were still on the tarmac when the NCAA Tournament selection show started, learning via social media they were a No. 6 seed in the East Region. On Thursday night, Florida will play the winner of St. Bonaventure (25-7) vs. UCLA (21-11) in Dallas.

"I would rather know who we're playing and be able to spend three or four days prepping for that team," White said. "That's the (difference) between being 20th and 21st (in seeding)."

Florida has advanced to the Elite Eight in five straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017), including last year's run, which ended one win shy of the Final Four. But this team is different from all those others, and not just because of its dozen losses and up-and-down ways.

"These guys aren't really animated. …

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