After much anticipation the Gators’ 2018-19 non-conference schedule has finally been announced, and let me tell you, it is a great one. From marquee tournaments, big programs playing in Gainesville, and some sneaky good mid-majors the Gators are once again challenging themselves in a non-league schedule that will be one of the most difficult of any team’s in the nation. With further ado, here is the schedule:
Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis
Participating Teams: Wisconsin, Virginia, Butler, Dayton, Stanford, Oklahoma, Middle Tennessee State
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Jimmy V Classic: West Virginia
New York City, New York
Orange Bowl Classic: Florida Gulf Coast
SEC/Big 12 Challenge: TCU
Fort Worth, Texas
There it is folks, a schedule that I hope has you as excited for Gators basketball as it has me!
One big takeaway I have is the fact that it’s a tough schedule. Kicking off the season on the road at Florida State, battling West Virginia on a neutral floor and also seeing Michigan State and Butler. Oh, and the Battle 4 Atlantis is sure to be a doozy. I’m a huge advocate of playing a tough schedule, even if this challenging schedule mixed with a monstrous SEC means the entire year is a gauntlet. Every year on Selection Sunday we see teams miss the dance because they didn’t have enough quadrant-1 wins or a high enough RPI and you see teams with an uninspiring record but a high RPI get the invitation. You also see the fruits of a tough schedule when it comes to seeding, as we saw with the Gators last year. Even though Florida had 3 tough stretches of losing games throughout last season they had accumulated the quality wins and computer numbers in the non-conference necessary to get a decent #6 seed. For most teams having several multi-game lapses throughout the year would have been enough for them to miss the Tournament or find themselves in a play-in game but for the Gators they still found themselves in the top half of the bracket.
There is also the intangible part of playing a tough schedule, battle testing yourself as a team for tough games that are ahead in the SEC, SEC Tournament, and ultimately postseason NCAA play. The Gators are lucky enough to head back to Madison Square Gardens in New York to play West Virginia (which also happens to be the alma mater of assistant coach Darris Nichols) and it will be a great opportunity for them to get used to a big stage should they advance deep in the NCAA Tournament. The 3 games in 3 days schedule of the Battle 4 Atlantis should also help in the preparation for postseason play with the quick turnarounds to adjust for a team you aren’t 100% familiar with.
Another highlight of the schedule is two incredible opponents coming into Gainesville in Michigan State and Butler, two games that should be real treats for any of you locals. Michigan State is a perennial power and should be a great opponent for the Gators and Butler is quickly rising back to prominence under charismatic new coach LaVall Jordan. There was a bit of a lack of exciting games in Gainesville in the early season last year and this should really electrify the O’Dome early.
Also, don’t sleep on the mid-majors on the slate this year. North Florida and LaSalle are going to offer the Gators a few different styles of play that could help the Gators later in the SEC season and Mercer and Charleston Southern are pretty well thought of from their leagues going into this year. Taking on Florida Gulf Coast in the Orange Bowl Classic maybe isn’t the most exciting opponent for a feature game of that magnitude but, as always, they are going to be one of the favorites to win their league.
What do you think of the schedule the Gators put together? Is it too hard, are not hard enough? Let me know in the Gator Country forums!