Florida coach Mike White didn’t watch Sunday night’s NCAA Tournament selection show.
There was little to no hope that the Gators (19-14) would earn a spot in the Big Dance — proving true in Sunday night’s selection of the tournament bracket. Later that night, Florida received its postseason designation: a No. 2 seed in the National Invitation Tournament.
White, who has gone to the NIT each of the last three seasons as head coach of Louisiana Tech, said Monday morning that he has encouraged his team to take the NIT seriously and to prepare and focus on tonight’s first-round game just as it would any other.
"I’m not going to overcomplicate it. I just want to win," White said.
"And I told these guys, as a competitor, you have another game in front of you. And whoever it’s gonna be, this was the conservation yesterday, I would hope that you just want to win. You lost your last game."
The Gators play No. 7-seed North Florida (22-11) tonight at 9 in Jacksonville. The game is on the Ospreys’ home court due to the O’Connell Center construction.
And with home court advantage, UNF is not an opponent to overlook. The Ospreys lead the nation in made three-pointers this season with 402 and have five players who average double-figure scoring, led by Dallas Moore, who scores 19.7 points per game.
Florida may be without center John Egbunu due to a torn ligament in his right thumb. Egbunu played both of the Gators’ Southeastern Conference Tournament games with the injury, scoring 19 total points and grabbing 15 rebounds despite the pain. He will be with the team in Jacksonville, but his playing status is still undetermined.
The Gators know they will get UNF’s best shot at an upset. Florida can’t underestimate the matchup.
"They’re fired up, they’re going to be ready to play," junior Kasey Hill said of the Ospreys. "They’re probably going to have a lot of fans there, but we have to match that intensity and come ready to play."
Hill was a pleasant surprise for Florida’s offense at last week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, scoring 18 points in each of UF's two games.
Following those performances, White said the junior guard stood out as one of the best players on the court in the team’s practice on Sunday.
"I thought he had that look in his eye. I loved his body language. He was making winning plays and playing as hard as he could play." White said of Hill’s tournament play. "I thought he put us on his back there for a few minutes stretch in the second game against A&M. He was really good."
Hill attributed his better play as of late to the ball simply going through the rim.
He said he has stayed in the gym and put in a lot of work into getting better, but that he’s still not satisfied.
Florida will need the offense he displayed in Nashville, especially with the possible absence or limited minutes of Egbunu. Hill said he is excited to be back in the postseason, even if it is the NIT.
"Just another chance to compete, honestly," Hill said.
"Obviously, we love playing basketball and we get the chance to keep playing, so it’s gonna be fun."