ARLINGTON — In his first NCAA tournament as a head coach, UConn's Kevin Ollie has all the bravado of youth. "I'm not chasing championships. I want championships to chase me," Ollie said Friday, with his team's Final Four semifinal matchup with No. 1 overall seed Florida looming.
Strong words from a No. 7 seed, but Ollie and the UConn Huskies have earned the right to be a bit brash. They've made it to the Dallas Cowboys' stadium, the supersized setting of college basketball's marquee event.
"A lot of people were not expecting us to be here, and we are here. A lot of people picked against us, and we're still here," the second-year coach said.
UConn can include the leader of the free world on the list as well. When the Huskies advanced to the Final Four, they busted President Barack Obama's bracket. And in typical UConn fashion, they weren't shy about it.
Sorry about busting your bracket @BarackObama... We have room on our bandwagon if you're interested— UConn Huskies (@UConnHuskies) March 30, 2014
If not for the Huskies' success, one might question the wisdom of building sky-high expectations. But you can't argue with Ollie's results.
All-American senior guard Shabazz Napier has a flare for razzle dazzle and is UConn's star player. Ollie is quick to spread the praise around, however, from calling his coaching staff "the best in America" to encouraging junior forward DeAndre Daniels to think of himself as the best player on the court.
"I have no roofs on my players, so we don't even look at limitations," Ollie said.
No, the Huskies don't sound like underdogs who are just thankful to be here. They'll leave the humility to their semifinal opponents, the No. 1-seeded Florida Gators.
"I have no roofs on my players, so we don't even look at limitations."
"I know for us to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament is really, really hard," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
Donovan and his starting five spent most of their press conference fielding questions about how they would handle UConn's Napier and Daniels in Saturday night's first semifinal game.
"We're going against a really hot team, offensively and defensively. It's going to take a team focus, making sure we're all doing our jobs," Florida senior Patric Young said.
When asked about his team's confidence level, Donovan didn't take the opportunity to tout his 36-2 team's top ranking. "I think the confidence level our team has has been what it's been really the entire year," he said. "They understand how hard they have to play, how well they have to play.
"It's a one-shot game. Anything can happen."