In Florida, It's David Versus Goliath In NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

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The NCAA men's basketball tournament is back in action on Friday. The Cinderella squad, Florida Gulf Coast University, hits the court against its long dominant in-state rival: the University of Florida. UF knows about post-season success. It won the men's basketball national championship in 2006 and 2007.


Now, north to Gainesville and to the University of Florida, this school knows about post-season success. It won the men's basketball national championship in 2006 and 2007. As Marc Whiteman of member station WUFT reports, excitement is tempered, but expectations are high.

MARC WHITEMAN, BYLINE: The newest merchandise at the Gator bookstores features the logo of the Sweet 16. Lynne Vaughn, the shop director, says it's not exactly flying off the rack.

LYNNE VAUGHN: You know, it's interesting, our Sweet 16 shirts have been very, very slow selling. And the biggest reason for that is because we've been there and done that for the last two years. Now this is the third year in a row.

WHITEMAN: Vaughn says back to back Elite Eight appearances tend to do that. Some UF students, like Stephan Bruner, say they're a bit jaded.

STEPHAN BRUNER: I feel like it's expected of the Gators, you know. We demand excellence and we just want to get past this stage.

WHITEMAN: Just off campus, the Swamp Bar and Restaurant is a popular gathering spot. Bartender Kaitlyn Map worked during last year's Sweet 16 and expects a crazy night tonight.

KAITLYN MAP: We're always pretty busy on Friday night. I think it's probably going to make it better. It probably actually make it packed earlier, just because people are expecting it be busy, getting here early before the game.

WHITEMAN: Junior Jacob Weiss is from Fort Myers and grew up with Florida Gulf Coast University in his backyard. He'll tip his cap to his hometown, but his loyalty lies with the Gator nation.

JACOB WEISS: You know, we're the big dogs and I hope we, you know, can put it to them. And it will be the end of their little story. But I am - from being from Fort Myers, I'm very happy where they're at right now. I'm excited for them.

WHITEMAN: It's the Sunshine State David versus Goliath and fans everywhere will be paying attention. For NPR News, I'm Marc Whiteman in Gainesville, Florida.

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