In Mike Scott's first four years at Virginia, the closest he could get to the NCAA tournament by mid-March was via a remote control.
With so much time to observe the tournament, while not actually participating in it, he began to understand how the tournament comes together. So, when it was announced Sunday night that No. 10 seed U.Va. would play Friday in Omaha, Neb., in the West Region second round against No. 7 seed Florida (23-10), none of it was too surprising for Scott.
Of course, that's not to say he wasn't on the edge of his seat before the announcement.
"It was very nerve-racking," said Scott, a fifth-year senior who added he felt confident U.Va. (22-9) would make the tournament, and didn't think it would be higher than a No. 8 seed. "Once Florida's name was called — I don't know, I just knew our name was going to be called next.
"It's definitely going to be tough to keep all my emotions in (before the tournament). You've just got to stay calm."
Like Scott, U.Va. guard Sammy Zeglinski felt relief when he realized he'd finally made it to the NCAA tournament as a fifth-year player. While he said he didn't really care where U.Va. wound up in the tournament, seeing his team's name pop up on the bracket on television caused him to reflect a bit.
"It has definitely been a long time coming," Zeglinski said. "Being here five years and never getting a chance to play in the tournament, you do think about some of those struggles that you've been through with your teammates."
Scott has since put the amateur bracketologist hat away. Preparing for Florida's unique combination of 3-point shooting and imposing size on the interior demands the full attention of Scott and his teammates.
In addition to guards Kenny Boynton (16.3 points per game; 42.7 percent 3-pointers), Bradley Beal (14.6 points; 32.9 percent) and Erving Walker (12.1 points; 37.1 percent), Florida also boasts 6-foot-10 forward Erik Murphy, who's connecting on 44.2 percent of his 3-point shots (53 of 120) and averaging 10.7 points per game. His range presents matchup problems for a lot of teams.
Scott, who averages 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, said forward Akil Mitchell likely will start out guarding Murphy. Scott will probably open up against 6-9 forward Patric Young, who's averaging 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 60.8 percent from the floor.
While Florida's perimeter shooting and length are troublesome for U.Va., which will be making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007, Scott's unique skills have also caught Florida coach Billy Donovan's attention.
"I think he clearly would be one of the better players in the (Southeastern Conference), and clearly is one of the best players in the (Atlantic Coast Conference)," said Donovan, whose team enters the tournament having lost four of its last five games, while U.Va. has lost three of its last four. "He is a consummate scorer, because he can do it on the offensive glass, he can do it from the post, he can do it from stepping away from the basket and shooting it and also he can do it off the dribble. So, he is really a handful."
In addition to being first in the nation in successful 3-point field goals per game (9.9), Florida is also 17th in fewest turnovers (10.9 per game) and 26th in scoring offense (76.3 points per game). U.Va.'s Pack Line defense has led it to the nation's second-best scoring defense (53.7 points per game).
U.Va. coach Tony Bennett has seen firsthand what his defensive philosophy is capable of doing in a tournament setting. Dick Bennett, Tony's father and the originator of the Pack Line defense, used it to take No. 8 seed Wisconsin all the way to the Final Four in 2000 — something that has surely come up in conversation with his team.
"It's a system that's done well in tournament play," Tony said. "It gives you a chance. It keeps you in games.
"I'm sure there will be some excitement and nerves, but we always talk about, 'Get to your game as quick as you can.' "
WHO: No. 10 seed Virginia (22-9) vs. No. 7 Florida (23-10).
WHEN: 2:10 p.m.
WHERE: Omaha, Neb.
TWITTER: For updates from Omaha, follow Norm Wood (@normwood) on Twitter.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times