ARLINGTON — Florida finds itself cast in the unlikely role of villain due to its opponent Friday in the second of two NCAA South Regional semifinals at Cowboys Stadium.The Gators face Florida Gulf Coast (26-10), which is the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 in NCAA history and has become a national darling. Florida (28-7) coach Billy Donovan acknowledged the Eagles’ accomplishments Thursday at the South Regional media day and that his team is considered the big brother bully. He also made it clear he doesn’t believe all of the hype amounts to much.“To me it always comes down to the business at hand, in between the lines on the court,” Donovan said. “That’s the only thing that matters to us right now.“We’re playing against a really, really good team that’s playing as well as anybody in the country right now and it has some incredible runs; they are explosive offensively and a high-steal team. All the other stuff — if that could impact the game then we would probably focus on it.“I get that there’s a lot of maybe really nice stories that are out there, but as it relates to us, we’ve got to focus on what we need to do going into the game.”After days of film study and endless questions from the media about the Eagles, several Florida players said they are ready to play. “We respect what they have done, they have gotten two great NCAA wins, but tomorrow it’s just two teams going out there and playing,” Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. “We’re going to go out there and play our hardest and I’m sure they will come with it also.”More tickets availableTickets for tonight’s semifinal games are available and can be purchased via ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Tickets are also available at Cowboys Stadium’s north ticket office at 9 a.m.So closeA win would send Florida to its third consecutive Elite 8. The Gators are looking for their its first Final Four bid since winning the national title in 2007.Senior guard Mike Rosario said the opportunity to reach the Final Four is within reach again after a lot of hard work.“You just think about all of those mornings you wake up throughout the season and preseason, especially the summer workouts — it’s to prepare yourself for this moment right here,” Rosario said. “We just want to take full advantage of this experience and what’s happening now.”Extended stayRather than travel back to Gainesville, Fla., the Gators elected to stay in the Lone Star State following Sunday’s victory over Minnesota at the Erwin Center in Austin.“For us with the travel, it would have been really, really difficult for our guys going back and forth.“We’re fortunate enough with our academic adviser, and having time, our guys have been able to take care of their schoolwork while we’ve been away from Gainesville,” Billy Donovan said.
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JohnsonJarret