AUSTIN -- While Ole Miss pulled off a mild upset Friday in its NCAA Tournament opener, it has been a down year for the Southeastern Conference, with the defending national champions, Kentucky, being the most glaring example of futility.
But the Gators don’t feel the failures of their SEC brethren has any impact on them.
“Not at all,” Gators guard Kenny Boynton said. “Those teams losing, I don’t think has anything to do with us.”
Said Erik Murphy: “I don’t think it should worry us at all. Those teams, they’re not us. We’ve got to play our game and they have no affect on what we do.”
Kentucky not only failed to make the NCAA field, but lost in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris.
Tennessee, which finished strong during the season, was also a first-round victim in the NIT. And Missouri, a No. 9 seed, went down to defeat in their NCAA opener, losing to Colorado State.
Only Ole Miss (a 12 seed) and Alabama in the NIT won their first tournament games before Florida took on Northwestern State on Friday.
How vital is Will Yeguete to the Gators’ fortunes?
After starting out 18-2, UF went just 8-5 after the junior forward, a key defensive contributor off the bench, went out with a knee injury in a Feb. 5 game against Arkansas.
While he managed to make it back on the court after surgery to remove loose bodies from the injured knee, Yeguete clearly isn’t the same player now as he was before.
“I’m happy that he can play and experience this,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “I think he put a lot of pressure on himself to perform at a level that he wasn’t capable of performing at. But he’s probably really not back to where he was.”
A lot of interest?
With Florida playing in the University of Texas’s backyard, Donovan was asked to compare the interest level in Gainesville between football and basketball. Football overshadows basketball at Texas.
“I think sometimes, at least back when I got hired, people always wanted to create a divide between football and basketball, and create animosity,” Donovan said. “And that couldn’t be further from the truth of what the environment is at Florida. Everybody supports each other. I’ve been at Florida with [ Steve] Spurrier and around [ Ron] Zook and Urban [Meyer] and now Will [Muschamp]. And I’ve had great relationships with all those guys.”