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Florida keys to victory

By Compiled by JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2000

RUN, RUN, RUN: The Gators love to win with their up-tempo style, run teams ragged with their 10-player rotation and trapping full-court press. It doesn't always pay dividends in the first half, but in the final eight minutes fatigue makes shooting an open jumper a tough task. Opponents with thin benches -- and North Carolina falls into that category -- are particularly susceptible. Just ask No. 1 seed Duke.

2) WATCH THE WHISTLES: As much as Florida will try to push the tempo, North Carolina will try to slow it. The Tar Heels have the biggest frontcourt UF has seen this season in Brendan Haywood and Kris Lang. Pounding it inside will be a priority. Centers Udonis Haslem and Donnell Harvey are used to giving up size. What they can't give are fouls. If Haslem and Harvey get in foul trouble, the Gators will be defenseless in the post.

3) DROP THE BOMB: Though the emergence of Haslem and Harvey has allowed Florida to rely less this season on three-point baskets, it still knows how to use one of the game's best weapons. North Carolina will not want to play catch-up, and the quickest way to build a lead is to count by threes. Four UF players have hit from beyond the arc in the NCAA Tournament, with guards Teddy Dupay and Brett Nelson a combined 16-for-30.

4) PUT BLINDERS ON: Since an emotional, buzzer-beating, overtime victory against No. 12 seed Butler in the first round, Florida has been a model of NCAA Tournament composure. The Gators' focus against Duke and senior-laden Oklahoma State belied their youth. But the Final Four will be a new, eye-popping event. Diversions will be plentiful, not to mention the distraction of forward Mike Miller's acknowledgment he accepted phone calls from a sports agent.

5) READ THE BRETT BAROMETER: Over the course of a 40-minute game, a single first-half basket rarely determines the outcome. But the Gators get a warm, fuzzy feeling when Nelson makes his first field-goal attempt, particularly if it's a three. Nelson is playing with unbounded confidence. It won't take long for his first attempt. And if it goes down, it will soon be followed by more. When Nelson and the perimeter players get hot, the Gators are mighty difficult to defend.

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