By LIZ HENRY/NEW YORK MagazineFor the third year running, Florida is home to a slew of wild card tournament winners.
That includes the 2014 champion, Florida State, and the first-ever wild card winner, Arizona.
But for the second straight year, Florida has the crown for the most-popular wild card, which is also a title that comes with a host of baggage.
For the last two years, Florida residents have had to contend with the wrath of the NCAA’s controversial and often cruel sanctions.
In 2014, the NCAA levied penalties against Florida State for using student athletes as guinea pigs for an experiment in brainwashing.
And in 2015, the school was fined $500,000 and banned from the NCAA tournament for not complying with the new rules.
In 2014, Florida was granted its second-ever trip to the NCAA Championship, which would have placed the Seminoles at No. 4 in the tournament.
But after a loss to Ohio State in the championship game, Florida players went to the locker room to protest.
In the aftermath of the national anthem, Florida’s players held a banner that read “No Justice, No Peace.”
The NCAA, in an unprecedented move, ruled in the Seminole players’ favor.
In its decision, the panel of judges cited the players’ “unreasonable, unconstitutionally cruel and unusual conduct” as justification for the sanctions.
The NCAA said the actions of the players were an egregious breach of the rules, and Florida was required to pay $1.5 million in fines.
The NCAA also imposed a five-year probation on the team and the NCAA.
Florida State went on to win the national championship, beating Ohio State for the third straight year.
The school earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its 21-year history.
In 2017, the first of the school’s three trips to the Final Four came against Kentucky.
Kentucky, a perennial top-five team in the country, had just missed the NCAA Regional Championship by one game with a disappointing loss to Florida State in Knoxville.
Kentucky, however, had the better of the two teams in their opener.
Kentucky won by a point with four minutes left.
The Wildcats trailed Kentucky by seven points with 2:17 left in the first half.
The game would end in a 79-73 Kentucky victory.
In the first round of the tournament, Florida and Florida State squared off in a rematch of last year’s title game.
The Gators led 74-63 entering the fourth quarter, and they went up 74-65 on a layup by Tyler Dorsey.
After a 3-pointer by Josh Jones with 0.4 seconds remaining, Florida took control.
Dorsey hit a 3 with 1:23 remaining to push the lead to 71-69.
With 5.5 seconds remaining in the game, Dorsey scored a layin to give Florida the lead for good.
In its victory, Florida beat Kentucky by a final score of 78-71.
Florida has gone on to play five of its last six games in Knox County.
For 2016, Florida, which had the fourth-most total victories in NCAA history, lost its third straight NCAA Tournament.
The Hurricanes went on a run to the championship, but fell short in the process.
Florida beat Kentucky in the Final Six for the fourth straight year and was swept by eventual national champion Kentucky in five games.
The victory marked the first NCAA Tournament appearance for Florida since 2001, when the Gators defeated Duke, 76-72, in the Sweet 16.
In a loss that saw Florida drop three straight games, the Gators fell to Kentucky in overtime in the second round of last season’s NCAA Tournament after a 10-point, four-assist performance by Josh Sitton with 1.2 seconds remaining.
With 1.8 seconds remaining and Kentucky leading by two, Sitton made a pair of 3-pointers to tie it.
With Kentucky down three with less than two minutes left in regulation, Sitto made a lay-up to make it 84-84.
With just over three minutes left, Sittons dunk and dunk-to-coup put Kentucky up by one with 1 1/2 minutes left on the clock.
The Wildcats made it a three-point game with 1 seconds left.
With less than a minute left, a 3 by Dorsey with 2.3 seconds left tied the game at 81.
A pair of free throws by Dorse made it 81-81.
The ball was then recovered by Sitton for a Kentucky timeout.
With two seconds left, Dorse dunked to give the Wildcats the lead with just under five minutes left to play.
With the ball at the Wildcats’ basket, Dorsell made two free throws to make the shot.
With four seconds left and Kentucky down by one, Dorson hit a free throw with 0 seconds left to put Kentucky ahead by one