While most college basketball teams gathered around a television set, anxiously waiting to hear if they made the cut for the NCAA Tournament, the Gators were stuck inside an airplane on a St. Louis runway.
Florida guard Egor Koulechov’s tweet confirmed it, as he believed Florida would have to wait until it landed in Gainesville to find out its fate.
With their flight still delayed, however, the Gators found out in real time who they would be facing first.
For the second consecutive year, the Florida men’s basketball team has made the NCAA Tournament, this time as a No. 6 seed. The Gators will play the winner of a First Four game between No. 11 seeds St. Bonaventure and UCLA in Dallas on Thursday in the East region of the bracket.
“We’re excited to compete in the NCAA Tournament again, which is one of the most unique and special events in all of sports,” Florida coach Mike White said.
The winner of that matchup will face the winner of No. 3-seed Texas Tech and No. 14-seed Stephen F. Austin in the second round on Saturday.
The Gators are coming off an 80-72 loss in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals to Arkansas on Friday, their only game of postseason play thus far.
This is Florida’s second appearance in the NCAA Tournament under White and its 19th overall.
With the NCAA bid, White became the first coach in UF history to earn a bid in two of his first three seasons. He is one of two active SEC coaches to accomplish this.
Last year, the Gators defeated East Tennessee State 80-65 in the first round of the tournament before beating Virginia 65-39 in the second round. In the Sweet 16, guard Chris Chiozza’s buzzer-beating three-pointer propelled the Gators past Wisconsin 84-83. Florida eventually fell to South Carolina 77-70 on March 26 in the Elite Eight.
Florida will now turn its attention to avoiding a first-round loss, which would be its first since 2010 when it lost to BYU in double-overtime 99-92.
But for White, he’s happy his team earned the opportunity to play in the tournament. Before the Tennessee game on Feb. 21, White stated that at the level Florida was playing, there was a chance it could play in the NCAA Tournament or be NIT-bound.
“I’m happy for our team to have this opportunity,” White said. “We obviously have two really good potential opponents to start preparing for.”