Gators refuse to look past No.15 Bearkats
By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 21, 2003
In the NCAA Tournament, the one thing you never say is never.
Or no way.
So while on paper it appears there's no way the Gators can lose, history has shown otherwise. Four times in NCAA Tournament history, a 15th seed has knocked off a No.2.
For Sam Houston State to become the fifth, it will take a monumental effort. SHSU has two starters averaging in double figures, the Gators have four.
Everyone involved agrees the bar is raised come tournament time. Teams play harder, the media attention grows. In other words, experience counts.
The Gators senior class has been to the NCAA Tournament every year, while the Bearkats are making their first trip. Florida coach Billy Donovan is making his fifth trip and knows how to get the Gators prepared.
Though the Gators are on a three-game losing streak, expect Donovan to have Florida prepared and not looking beyond Sam Houston State. After all, he's been upset in the first round, so he's aware it can happen.
SHSU's Donald Cole is a serious inside-outside threat, but he could spend a good part of the day with senior guard Justin Hamilton all over him. Hamilton, arguably the best defensive player in the SEC, has held some of the nation's best guards and forwards in check. Bearkats point guard Robert Shannon can handle the ball and get it inside, so Florida needs to shore up its post game.
Sam Houston State's best chance at upsetting the Gators is to catch them looking ahead. Florida has lost in the first or second round the past two years, so the Bearkats know an upset is possible.
So does Florida. Which is why the Gators insist SHSU will be the only team on their minds come tipoff time.
"Don't ask me about Michigan State (a potential second-round opponent)," senior guard Brett Nelson said. "We have to beat Sam Houston State first, they are a really good team. I don't even want to start thinking about anybody else."
Freshman guard Anthony Roberson wasn't around for last year's upset, but he's heard enough from his senior teammates to know the best way to go home early is to look ahead.
"I'm focused on Sam Houston State," Roberson said.
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