PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 24: Patric Young #4 (C) and Erik Murphy #33 of the Florida Gators look on in the second half while taking on the Louisville Cardinals during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Final at US Airways Center on March 24, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) / Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE — Florida's team is filled with players who can shoot behind the arc and play defense on the perimeter. That will makes things tough on any opponent.
But if there's one player the Gators need to keep on the court as much as possible, who couldn't be replaced, it has to be 6-foot-9 junior center Patric Young. Young averages 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game with 57 blocks this season.
Erik Murphy has been outstanding at the forward spot, helping out inside and with great outside range. Will Yeguete has provided a defensive spark and rebounds well as the backup.
But Young, projected as a low first-round or early second-round NBA Draft pick if he leaves early, is the dominating inside force, the team's top rebounder and inside scorer. The junior has been up and down all season. But if he gets hot, Florida becomes a different team.
Young isn't taking FGCU, the Cinderella of the 2013 Big Dance, lightly.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re going up against, every team is going to give it the best shot they can,” the Jacksonville native said. “So we don’t care who we’re going against, it’s nameless, faceless right now, we’re just going to give it our best shot no matter who it is.”
The key so far to Florida advancing has been the ability to have monster scoring runs at clutch times.
“We’ve been in situations before, having big leads and then losing them,” he said. “But the difference (in the third round 78-64 win Sunday vs. Minnesota) was we stayed together. The recurring theme was fight through, keep going, push, stay together instead of ‘Oh no, this shouldn’t be happening to us.’ Instead of everyone off in their own little world, we all stayed together and us doing that really helped us push through that wall.”
Another thing UF has that the Eagles lack? Experience. The Gators have been in the Sweet 16 for three straight years.
“If you start with Murph and KB (Kenny Boynton), they played BYU (in the 2010 tourney) before I even came here,” Young said. “But the experience factor is huge as far as knowing what it takes to win. We’ve won a lot of games in the tournament.”
But if there's one player the Gators have to keep healthy and out of foul trouble, it's Young and his ability to dominant defensively.