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March 31, 2014

Notebook: Distractions to sort out

Scottie Wilbekin hadn't sorted out how the six tickets he is permitted to give away to the Final Four would be used as of midday Monday. He still had a little bit of time.

"I have until three o'clock to do it," he said.

That's because 3 p.m. Monday is when practice and preparation begins for the basketball aspect of the Final Four, which for Florida begins Saturday at 6:09 p.m. against No. 7 seed Connecticut. Monday morning, it was everything aside from basketball that Billy Donovan was worried about: the rush of interview requests, who gets what tickets, the mental preparation for what is to come in Texas.

Spectacle can become more than sport at events like this. Donovan wants to make sure that is out of the way early.

"It's like the Super Bowl in a lot of ways. There are a lot of different demands on your time," he said. "This early part of the week is these guys have got to get their personal stuff out of the way. I think when you go to a Final Four, there is a lot of stuff coming at them. I can't even imagine the amount of people that want tickets from them and people want this or that. There are a lot of things. I need to give them time to handle their personal stuff. That's what yesterday and today will be for them."

Exactly one week will have passed since their last game when the Gators next take the floor. The management of that time makes Donovan antsy. Florida had a similar break in between its regular season finale against Kentucky and its Southeastern Conference Tournament opener against Missouri.

The Gators eventually cruised to a 23-point win but initially stumbled out of the gates and shot 34.6 percent in the first half against the Tigers.


Florida has won 30 consecutive games since losing at Connecticut on Dec. 2 in a 65-64 decision bookended by a buzzer-beater shot from Shabazz Napier. The play has served as a reference point for the Gators ever since.

Napier's shot was his second of the possession, the first a sloppy off-balance attempt that was tipped back out to Napier by DeAndre Daniels as three Gators crashed to the basket and left the eventual game-winning shot open.

"It's not the first shot that beats you; it's the second shot," sophomore guard Michael Frazier II said. "We definitely saw that in that game. I think we've learned from it and moved on."

-- TURF TOE --

Kasey Hill has become a major part of Florida's repertoire late in the season and especially came up big with a 10-assist game against UCLA in the Sweet 16. Those contributions could especially come in handy Saturday against a UConn team loaded at guard.

Suffering from a high ankle sprain, Hill did not play in the Gators' first meeting with the Huskies this season. He said over the weekend he is still dealing with some of the pain from the turf toe injury he suffered going into the NCAA Tournament's opening weekend. Don't expect sympathy from Donovan.

"Well, I know turf toe is painful, but come on, we're playing in the Final Four," Donovan said with a smile. "He'll be fine."

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