Breaking Down Florida’s SEC Basketball Schedule

The Southeastern Conference released their 2020-21 schedule on Friday, giving Florida’s season structure as they can now look towards what their year is going to look like. The season is set to tip off December 30th and then finish on March 3rd, or 6th (more on that in a bit) before the SEC Tournament, in Nashville, tips off on March 10th. Here is Florida’s complete schedule:

@ Vanderbilt (December 30)
LSU (January 2)
@ Alabama (January 5)
Kentucky (January 9)
Ole Miss (January 12)
@ Mississippi State (January 16)
Tennessee (January 19)
@ Georgia (January 23)
Vanderbilt (January 27)
South Carolina (February 3)
@ LSU (February 6)
@ Tennessee (February 10)
Texas A&M (February 13)
@ Arkansas (February 16)
Georgia (February 20)
@ Auburn (February 23)
@ Kentucky (February 27)
Missouri (March 3)
Open Date (March 6)

As you can see, the SEC has left one open day on March 6 as an opportunity to make up any game that has been lost. One open date may not do much, considering an outbreak on a team could very well lose them two weeks and four games, but if it gets to a position where one game could really help the one extra date is there.

As usual, Florida will be playing two games against Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt who are their normal dual game partners. Georgia and Vanderbilt are both in serious rebuild mode and playing them twice each is extremely beneficial for the Gators. Similarly beneficial is the fact that they’ll be playing LSU twice, a team who had a lot of talent move on from a year ago and will be vulnerable to a few losses at the hands of the Gators. On the unlucky side, Florida will be playing Tennessee twice. The Volunteers will likely be the number one team in the SEC preseason polls, certainly no lower than two, and those will both be battles for the Gators. So, Florida having to play two of the top teams in the league twice may not be ideal but the fact they are playing three rebuilding teams twice is helpful.

Looking through the schedule there isn’t really a gauntlet that jumps out as a particularly difficult stretch. Many pundits will have Alabama as a top four team in the league, and that means Alabama and then Kentucky in the second week of the season will be a pretty big challenge. Past that, there isn’t really a noticeably tough area of the schedule or a murderer’s row of multiple tough games in a row we’ve seen the Gators have in past seasons.

There are two four-game runs where the Gators will see teams projected to either be outside of the NCAA Tournament picture or on the bubble, first starting on January 23rd with Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and LSU and then on February 13 with Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia, and Auburn. Those are two stretches where the Gators will have chances to rattle off multiple wins in a row, gaining momentum towards the more difficult contests with Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.

Generally speaking it looks like the SEC is going to have a down year this season without the extreme level of talent we’ve seen in the last few seasons. Since Florida is a veteran group with proven talent, this could be a huge opportunity for them to grab the league by the horns. Analytics tool KenPom is one of the most popular evaluation tools in the eyes of coaches, media, and the NCAA selection committee and they just came out with their preseason rankings. Here is how they see the league shaking out, as well as the national ranks for each team.

Kentucky (11th)
Tennessee (20th)
Florida (24th)
LSU (37th)
Ole Miss (42nd)
Alabama (46th)
Arkansas (54th)
Missouri (58th)
South Carolina (60th)
Auburn (66th)
Texas A&M (68th)
Mississippi State (78th)
Georgia (92nd)
Vanderbilt (126)

Though KenPom is known as one of the best evaluation tools at the end of the season, it’s not known as being particularly solid in preseason predictions and that’s why some of these peculiar rankings, such as LSU and Ole Miss being ahead of Alabama, should be taken with a grain of salt.

An analytics tool known for being more accurate in the preseason is Bart Torvik, who has a history of eerie accuracy when it comes to preseason rankings. This is how that site sees the league coming down.

Florida (7th)
Tennessee (19th)
Kentucky (20th)
Alabama (37th)
Ole Miss (48th)
Missouri (52nd)
LSU (58th)
Arkansas (61st)
South Carolina (78th)
Texas A&M (80th)
Mississippi State (100th)
Georgia (105th)
Auburn (110th)
Vanderbilt (140th)

Now, referencing this as perhaps the better prediction might sound like some Florida homerism but Bart Torvik being the most accurate preseason tool historically is proven fact, and their top tier of Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama is a lot closer to what most people think than the KenPom rankings that are a bit all over the place.

Florida’s high rank in Bart Torvik speaks to just how much proven talent they have on the roster. These types of predictions are always going to favor proven production over the mystery box that is freshman recruits, and for the first time in multiple years the Gators won’t need to rely on heavy minutes from freshmen to be productive.

Obviously the Gators will need to play to the best of their ability to succeed and reach their ceiling but the SEC schedule definitely seemed to break in their favor. It’s tough to look at any stretch of games and see any losses that could be strung together and there are some fledgling teams that the Gators see back to back that could mean easy victories. Florida will need to do their part, but the groundwork is there for them to have a great season and compete for an SEC title.

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.