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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The UF-FSU rivalry just got a little more heated.

The Seminoles (18-13) received an NCAA Tournament at-large bid on Selection Monday.

The Gators, who have an identical record, better RPI and tougher schedule, did not.

Many UF players and coaches thought they would see their name called after their in-state rival came up on ESPN's broadcast of the selection show.

The team had gathered at Gators coach Amanda Butler's house after practice Monday to discover their fate together.

"We kind of got shaken up a bit when we saw Florida," junior forward Marshae Dotson said. "Everybody was like, 'Oh, no, there's a 'St.' at the end.'"

Butler added: "We saw them, and we were like, 'Wow, anything can happen.'"

Florida State defeated UF 81-78 in Gainesville on Nov. 23, but that didn't make it any easier to swallow.

"I can't believe Florida State got in," Dotson said. "They didn't beat anybody in the field. That's crazy."

Junior guard Sha Brooks wishes she could go back and play a few games over again.

"I think the South Carolina game," Brooks said. "Towards the end when we needed it, that would've boosted us into the tournament. And a few other games that we just let slip out of our hands."

Junior guard Kim Critton said this could be a learning experience for a team that sports just one senior.

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"Everything happens for a reason," Critton said. "Maybe going into the Women's National Invitational Tournament is an eye-opener for us. We won't go where we want to if we don't do what we need to get there."

Now the team must move forward and make the most of the postseason opportunity it did receive - an NIT bid.

"It all comes about pride," Critton said. "We have to beat whoever we step in front of no matter what the tournament is. It could be kicking rocks. We have Florida across our chest - we're going to go in for the win."

Everyone stressed Tuesday that they do not want to be holding their breath in a similar fashion when Selection Monday comes around next year.

Dotson noted the example of Wyoming, a team that won the WNIT in 2007 and then earned a No. 11 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament.

"We talked about … what this will feel like when we're sitting here next year," Butler said. "What we needed to do to create that feeling - to be sitting, watching the selection show, wondering what your seed is going to be and what region you'll be sent to as opposed to are you in or not."

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