USF makes NCAAs, sort of

TAMPA — Even though the USF men’s basketball team did not make the NCAA Tournament or NIT, the Bulls were still represented in the postseason.

The floor of the USF basketball team was displayed on CBS Friday and Sunday, when the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament were hosted by USF and the St. Pete Times Forum.

The 21,304 people in attendance for the final game played at the Forum, pitting Florida against Michigan State, enjoyed more than two years of work and effort put into making the event happen.

“It’s been in the plans for a couple of years of work once you get the bid,” USF Athletics Director Lee Roy Selmon said. “I know at least two years and more than that.

“I know it was approved to be here before I was the Athletic Director, (and) it’s years from the time it’s awarded to the time it gets here.”

The two-plus years paid off, as the event at the Forum was highly touted.

“It’s a great venue compared to the SEC tournament, where they played at the Super Dome where it is just too big,” Jeff Labas, a Gator fan from Sarasota, said. “This is a nice atmosphere, and it’s set up well and been handled very well.”

With Florida playing only two hours from home, many of the fans that filled the arena were wearing orange and blue, but there was support for all teams.

“Everybody is a basketball fan, but it looks like the Gators did show up, no doubt about that even though all the schools got allotted the same amount (of tickets),” Labas said.

Some of the fans who were in attendance were Spartans faithful, including golfing legend Arnold Palmer and Atlanta Braves closer John Smoltz.

“This team, in a couple of years, is going to be unbelievable,” Smoltz said. “Right now they are really young and are buying into the system, and they’ve got a chance.”

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