Tonight, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles play in the Sweet 16 for the second time in as many years with an opportunity to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003. As is always the case, a team has to stand in the way, and in this case, that team is the Florida Gators. To help you get ready for the game, we sent some questions over to our SB Nation partner in charge of covering all things University of Florida, Alligator Army. A big thank you to AA's Andy Hutchins for taking the time to answer our hard-hitting and not-so-hard-hitting questions!
UPDATE! Be sure to stop by Alligator Army to check out our answers for their questions!
Anonymous Eagle: What were your expectations for this season coming off of an Elite 8 appearance last year? Did a three way tie for second in the SEC at 10-6 and a second straight Sweet 16 appearance meet or exceed those expectations?
Alligator Army: We actually discussed expectations and had a poll last year about expectations for the Gators this year; most people thought these Gators were Sweet Sixteen- or Elite Eight-bound. I was in the Sweet Sixteen faction, and I was slightly disappointed by tying for second in the SEC -- especially considering two losses to Tennessee and a loss to Georgia prevented the Gators from having second all to themselves -- and am still of the opinion that Florida's probably just outside the top eight teams in the country. But the way the Gators are playing now has changed my and others' minds, and the way in which Florida's reached the Sweet Sixteen may have those expectations morphing on the fly.
Head to the jump for more!
AE: It's been 35 years since Marquette's been in consecutive Sweet 16s, but this is the third time in Florida history that it's happened, with all three during Coach Donovan's time as coach. Since this is a new experience for a lot of Marquette fans, what's the best part of being in consecutive Sweet 16s and what's your least favorite part?
AA: Florida fans got back-to-back national championships and back-to-back NIT bids in consecutive two-year periods earlier this decade; the consecutive Sweet Sixteens seem more like they could be the program's proper baseline under Donovan. Donovan's not much for one-and-dones, and Bradley Beal is likely to be the first one-and-done Florida's had since Donnell Harvey this year, and so his system of developing good recruits has borne fruit three different times with great cores (Mike Miller-Teddy Dupay-Brett Nelson, the Joakim Noah/Al Horford/Corey Brewer/ "Oh-Fours" we love dearly, and the current Erving Walker/Kenny Boynton et al. crew). The best part of getting to the Sweet Sixteen twice in two years is seeing a team play on and on; the worst part is that we're in some ways spoiled by this and past success, and only want more.
AE: Florida is the fourth SEC team that Marquette has played this season, after Mississippi, LSU, and Vanderbilt. How does the Gators' style of play compare to those three teams?
AA: Of those teams, Vanderbilt's the only really good one, and none really have Florida's talent, despite Vandy being close. And the Gators probably play most like Vandy, though there aren't many teams in the country as reliant on threes as the Gators are. You'll see a lot of ball screens, and probably transition offense that results in kicking out to trailers, and almost certainly a press at one point or another, and there's a vanishingly small chance that Florida won't win or lose entertainingly.
AE: A check of Florida's KenPom profile shows that the Gators are more efficient of an offense than Marquette, and it's largely because of their excellent shooting. Has the shooting been consistent all year, or have there been dry spells?
AA: There have certainly been dry spells, but they've been worst when combined with other teams having better defenses. Florida wasn't within 15 points of Kentucky in the teams' first two meetings in part because the Gators shot terribly; when they exceeded their season average effective field goal percentage (55 percent) against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, they lost by just three. Boynton has been the streakiest shooter on the roster, but he appears to be returning to his early-season form after struggling toward the end of the SEC schedule.
AE: ESPN.com's Andy Katz is a big fan of trying to stir up problems in the Marquette fan base by suggesting that every Power 6 school with an opening should hire Buzz Williams. After Coach Donovan's brief flirtation with the Orlando Magic, do Gator fans have any kind of regular concern about him leaving?
AA: I don't think there's a lot of worrying right now about Donovan, who recently signed an extension. But Florida fans have heard his name floated for the Kentucky job twice now, and his ties to Rick Pitino make him a natural candidate to succeed him at Louisville, and the New York native would probably make a decent candidate for the Knicks job when the time comes. I think Donovan's the coach at Florida until he decides to retire, because I think his change of heart after leaving for Orlando was all about him realizing he's a college coach at heart, but that doesn't mean I don't always have a list of possible replacements (Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart, come on down!) ready.
AE: At Anonymous Eagle, we're partial to the dance stylings of the South Florida Sun Dolls. Will the Marquette fans in attendance in Phoenix be just as entertained by the performance of the Dazzlers?
AA: We love the Dazzlers, and it's hard to find a person on the UF campus who doesn't know that Erin Andrews was one. They've done all manner of fast-paced halftime shows, and they have all sorts of routines, and they're generally an integral part of the straight male Gators population's enjoyment of home games and a thing many of the women and parents roll their eyes at.
AE: What's the best campus hangout for a Marquette fan that would find themselves in Gainesville and looking for a brew and a burger?
AA: Swamp (not to be confused with The Swamp, the football stadium), is the classic fratty watering hole, and the food's pretty good, but the best burger near campus is right across the street at Relish. And the place I proselytize for is Satchel's, an out-of-the-way pizza joint that is so beloved that when a fire closed its kitchen recently, it got a donation request (Satchel's gives all of its employees salary and benefits) filled in just a few days. If you go, try to sit in the van.