TAMPA, Fla. — Kentucky, UCLA, Michigan State, Florida ...
Basketball blue bloods representing more than 20 national championships are playing in this pod of the NCAA Tournament this week. The star-studded collection of programs commands attention.
"What they bring to the game, there's a reason they bring that to the game," said UC Santa Barbara Coach Bob Williams, whose team plays Florida in Thursday's first round. "They have great coaches. ... They understand what it takes, and they recruit the top players in the country. So, that's a great combination."
One of those coaches, John Calipari, acknowledged how being Kentucky coach is humbling.
"You know you're temporary," he said. "This seat is not changing. You're here for a short time and do the best you can in the job."
In the only first-round matchup of blue bloods, Michigan State plays UCLA. In this season of rebuilding, UCLA is a No. 7 seed and Michigan State a No. 10.
"Two misfits, in a way," Izzo said.
When a reporter asked about Michigan State being among the blue bloods, Izzo said, "Well, I've always downplayed that, When you find out (if you're a blue blood) is when you select or still have to recruit."
Izzo noted a 2005 NCAA regional in Austin, Texas, as a highlight for Michigan State. The Spartans beat Duke and Kentucky in a three-day period to advance to the Final Four.
"There might not be a greater weekend for Michigan State than that weekend," he said.
While Izzo downplayed Michigan State as a blue blood, forward Chandler Parsons declared Florida a member.
"They have great tradition: Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Michigan State," the Gators player said. "I think Florida, you can throw them in there. They've had good runs and arguably the best teams ever with those back-to-back national championship teams."
Vargas in Florida
UK can only hope that playing in Florida has the same effect on Eloy Vargas as playing against Florida.
Vargas, a native of the Dominican Republic who began his college career at the University of Florida, enjoyed two of his most productive games this season against the Gators.
"I just concentrate harder," he said. "They put (me) down. They didn't want me. I guess when we play them, I want to get the best of them."
Vargas said he would have about 10 family members or friends at UK's games here.
"It feels great to be back here in my first NCAA Tournament," he said. "This is a big deal for me."
Lamb 'way better'
Doron Lamb pronounced the ankle he sprained Saturday as "way better" going into the NCAA Tournament.
"Not 100 percent," he said. "Like 90 percent. But way better than last week."
Florida No. 2 seed?
Parsons saw Florida's No. 2 seed as fitting and proper.
"We had a great year and I think we're very deserving of a two seed," he said.
Florida Coach Billy Donovan acknowledged the discussion surrounding whether his team deserved a seed as good as No. 2.
"Our program and these kids and myself didn't give us a two," he said.
Donovan described the No. 2 seed as a reflection of Florida's successes throughout the season.
Princeton Athletics Director Gary Walters played point guard for the school's Final Four team of 1965. Bill Bradley was the team's star.
But Walters noted that he also played on the Princeton team of 1966-67 that finished the season ranked in the top 10.
"Kentucky thinks of itself — and appropriately so — as one of the basketball blue bloods, literally and figuratively," Walters said. "Just as there is magic associated with Kentucky, there is magic with Princeton. We've always been a program that captured the imagination of college basketball fans."
Walters suggested that Princeton's "intelligent" playing style enhanced the academic reputation of the school. "That's a paradoxical comment," he said. "But it's more than less true."
Princeton forward Ian Hummer's father, Ed, played on Princeton's Final Four team of 1965. His uncle, John, also played for Princeton.
"They said take it one game at a time, and this is a moment that you'll remember forever," Hummer said. "And just play your game. Don't be nervous because it's on a bigger stage. Just come out, do what you've done all season and see what happens."