By DAVID BRANDT
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 5:20 PM
NEW ORLEANS -- Just like everyone else in college basketball, Florida is quite familiar with Jimmer-mania.
Jimmer Fredette's production - 28.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game - is impossible to ignore. If anything, BYU's senior guard is getting stronger, scoring at least 30 points in six of his last seven games.
But second-seeded Florida doesn't buy that third-seeded BYU will be a one-man team when they meet in the NCAA tournament regional semifinals Thursday night in New Orleans.
The Gators know from experience.
BYU beat Florida 99-92 in double overtime in a first-round game last season. Fredette scored 37 points, yet what really hurt the Gators was a career-game from reserve guard Michael Loyd Jr., who poured in 26 points.
Now with a second chance, Florida's players say they have plenty of respect for all of the Cougars - even if it's Fredette who is dominating the highlights.
"The game plan isn't just to stop Jimmer," the Gators' Chandler Parsons said. "They've got a complete team. We had a taste playing against them last year and now we understand just how good they are. We don't have to watch film to understand that. They're strong and they execute."
Florida is almost the antithesis of BYU, with multiple seemingly anonymous options who can hurt opponents during any given game. Four players average at least 11 points and the Gators often use a 10-man rotation.
Parsons, the SEC player of the year, is maybe the best example. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists, can step out and hit 3-pointers, is a solid defender and doesn't make many bad decisions.
But he's nowhere near the superstar that Fredette has become.
The 6-foot-2 shooting specialist has a well-deserved reputation as a nearly unstoppable scorer. He's shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 40.6 from 3-point range despite constant double teams, but has also proven capable at creating for others.
He's an unassuming superstar, with an easy laugh that keeps teammates loose and a surprisingly small ego for such a prolific scorer.
"I'll be a willing passer if they're going to double-team me and try to take away my scoring," Fredette said. "But if they're kind of single covering me and I see opportunities to score, that's what I'll do."
In BYU's locker room on Wednesday, Fredette was surrounded by more than 15 reporters while most of the other players sat around eating lunch in relative silence. The other Cougars are used to the attention Jimmer-mania commands.
"He gets all the attention, but deservedly so," BYU forward Noah Hartsock said. "It's fun watching him going out there and play. I think it helps our teams because we get a lot of national exposure."
Hartsock certainly expects Fredette's usual array of offensive production against the Gators, but finding the new Michael Loyd Jr. will be important, too.
"It's vital for our tournament success," Hartsock said. "Our bench play is crucial for us, especially this time a year when everyone might be a little fatigued and tired."
So far, the bench has produced. In the Cougars' opening round game against Wofford, senior Logan Magnusson scored 10 points, just his second game in double figures all season.
In their second-round win over Gonzaga, it was sophomore Stephen Rogers who emerged with 10 points and three rebounds in just 11 minutes.
The added contributions from role players have been especially important since starting forward Brandon Davies was suspended for violating the school's honor code. But BYU coach Dave Rose said it's a trend that started long before the Cougars lost their third-leading scorer.
"I believe that it's one of the strengths of our team that we've had guys that have stepped up all year long," Rose said. "And we'll need that to happen on Thursday in order to be successful."