Florida Gators: Rick Pitino

Trey LylesCourtesy David Dixon/tnl1.comNo. 4 recruit Trey Lyles trimmed his list to Kentucky, Louisville, Florida and Butler this week, but it could come down to a battle between John Calipari and Rick Pitino.

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Trey Lyles cut his final college list to four earlier this week down here at the Peach Jam, and the onetime Indiana commit kept the dream alive when both Louisville and Kentucky remained in the hunt.

Lyles is a stud, ranked No. 4 in the ESPN 100. Think a 6-foot-9, 250-pound version of Tim Duncan. Not overly athletic, but super skilled and with an extremely high IQ. The senior power forward out of Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis can score with both hands in the paint, has terrific touch around the basket, can bury shots from midrange, and can even step out beyond the arc and drain shots from deep.

No. 1 point guard Tyus Jones and No. 1 overall Jahlil Okafor have soaked up the majority of the headlines in the 2014 class thanks to their talents and their willingness to play together in college, but Lyles could have as much of a winning impact as anyone in this entire group. He’s a versatile scorer who can rebound, pass and help lead a team. He’s more than capable of being a double-double guy as a freshman in college thanks to his rebounding instincts.

Florida and Butler also made the cut in Lyles’ final four, but this one could very well come down to a Battle of the Bluegrass. In fact, many of those close to this recruitment feel it will ultimately be John Calipari vs. Rick Pitino.


PHOENIX -- There is nowhere to hide. There are no secrets to keep and no shocking, revolutionary game plans to unveil.

With Louisville and Florida, this would also be the case in November: Is there a high-profile coaching duo as familiar with one another as Rick Pitino and his former star player and pupil, Billy Donovan? No.

That familiarity will play a factor, no doubt ... but it's also the default situation for any two teams squaring off with a Final Four berth on the line. By this point, the Cardinals and Gators are what they are. Both teams have revealed themselves in their three NCAA tournament victories to date. And both coaches will prepare their teams accordingly.

What do those preparations entail?

There's the obvious strength-on-strength matchup: Over the course of the season, Florida's offense has been one of the best and most efficient in the country. As of Friday's pregame press conferences, the Gators ranked No. 3 in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom.com. Louisville, meanwhile, has likewise been a great defensive team all season -- after Thursday night's historically brutal lockdown of No. 1-seeded Michigan State, the Cardinals rank No. 1 in the nation in defensive efficiency.

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Video: Florida coach Billy Donovan

March, 24, 2012
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Billy Donovan talks about his seventh-seeded Gators' matchup with No. 4 Louisville on Saturday and about facing mentor and former coach Rick Pitino with a Final Four berth on the line.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Here are five things to watch for in Saturday's Florida-Louisville matchup in the Elite 8 (4:30 p.m. ET on CBS) in Phoenix, Ariz.

Man in the middle: Louisville center Gorgui Dieng presents the same kind of trouble for the Gators as Kentucky's Anthony Davis. He's a shot-blocking machine who should make smaller guards Erving Walker (5-foot-8) and Kenny Boynton (6-1) think twice about driving the lane. The 6-11 Dieng already has Louisville's single-season blocks record (123 and counting) and is averaging 9.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Against Michigan State on Thursday, Dieng tied his career high with seven blocks and added nine rebounds, five points and three steals. He's had at least five blocks in a game 11 times this season. Florida can't allow him to control the paint the way he did against the Spartans. It'll be up to 6-9 center Patric Young to make Dieng guard him and try to get him in foul trouble.

Defense, defense, defense: Louisville isn't particularly big, but the Cardinals are long and athletic, and those are the kind of teams the Gators have struggled with the past few seasons. Louisville has been thriving because of its defense. The Cardinals are third nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.7 percent) and have been fantastic in the NCAA tournament, limiting Davidson to 35 percent from the field and holding New Mexico to 56 points, which was its fourth-lowest point total of the season. Michigan State managed just 44 points, including 18 in the first half. Florida's defense has held its three NCAA tournament opponents to an average of 51.0 points and Virginia, Norfolk State and Marquette shot a combined 20.6 percent from 3-point range (13-for-63) and 31.5 percent from the field. The Gators are also averaging 43.0 rebounds per game in the NCAA tournament, which has limited opponents' second shot opportunities.

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PHOENIX -- The No. 7 seeds in the 2012 NCAA tournament were as follows:

Notre Dame. Saint Mary's. Gonzaga. Florida.

Sing it with me now: One of these things is not like the others.

For starters, Florida was the only No. 7 seed to survive the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, and the only one -- after Thursday's 68-58 victory over Marquette -- to reach the Elite Eight and the one-game-from-the-Final-Four precipice it so intensely entails.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan enjoyed watching his team rout Georgia on Tuesday night, but there was a part of him that wished he were 1,000 miles away.

Donovan would have liked to have been in Providence, R.I., so he could take part in a ceremony honoring the 25th anniversary of the 1987 Providence College basketball team's Final Four berth. The school had a ceremony at halftime of the Friars' Tuesday night game against Louisville, and coach Rick Pitino, who first made a name for himself by taking Providence to the Final Four that was played in Louisville's Freedom Hall.

"It would have been awesome [to be there]," Donovan said after UF's 70-48 victory.

Donovan sent a video message that was played during the halftime ceremony. He was one of three players who were unable to make the trip -- Brian Benham and David Snedeker are the others -- but he still was able to hook up with his former teammates via phone on Monday night and Tuesday.

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