Florida announced their official non-conference schedule Tuesday giving fans a glimpse at the upcoming season and a chance to get excited for what’s to come. Nowadays in college basketball a lot of scheduled games are made known long before the official schedule was announced so many of these matchups weren’t surprises but now that it’s on paper we can start to break down what we’ll see. Here is the Florida’s 2019-20 non-conference slate.
Gainesville (Charleston Classic on-campus game)
Storrs or Hartford, Connecticut
Charleston Classic (Towson, UConn, Miami, Missouri State, Saint Joseph’s, Xavier)
Charleston, South Carolina
Providence (Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame Game)
New York, New York
Orange Bowl Classic (Opponent not yet announced)
Orange Bowl Classic
Long Beach State
SEC/Big 12 Challenge (Opponent not yet announced)
Right away I can see this schedule isn’t as difficult as last season’s meat grinder. While last season’s challenging slate of games helped Florida’s computer numbers and kept them in the NCAA Tournament picture they didn’t come away with a lot of wins and this season should be much different.
These are the positives to Florida’s easier schedule this year:
1) Wins talk and while on Selection Sunday people are factoring in strength of schedule and the quadrants of wins up until that point people are looking at the win/loss columns and having a more favorable record will help the national and local perception of the team.
2) Playing an easier schedule will allow the team to build up more confidence and chemistry. Last season the Gators had to ride their starters so much against difficult opposition and it didn’t give them a chance to try different lineups or schemes. Because they didn’t have the chance to roll out different lineups or try out new things they had a style of play without a lot of variation and this season could see them get a lot more exotic.
3) Not playing slugfest after slugfest will allow them to stay healthy. This was a team plagued by injuries and I’m sure having to play so many tough games didn’t help. Some of these easier contests should allow rest to the heavier minute guys and allow them to stay fresh up until conference play.
4) Florida is going to be young and some of the easier games will allow for the new guys to get their feet wet and develop some rhythm. There weren’t many opportunities for that last year and some of the bench guys weren’t able to get their feet under them. This schedule gives the depth guys more opportunities to get some run and that could have serious long-term benefits.
Here are the negatives.
1) Florida is going to have to really avoid bad losses because there aren’t a ton of chances for marquee wins. When you don’t play a super difficult schedule you’ve got to execute and looking at this schedule even a road loss to Butler could be fairly damaging even though that’s going to be a tough game.
2) Sorry season ticket holders, there isn’t much intrigue here. Florida State will be a big one at home but other than that North Florida, Towson, Marshall, and Long Beach State aren’t going to get you too excited in the Fall. Florida had some pretty drab crowds at home in some of the less interesting games and I fear a few of these games against mid-majors could have poor attendance. The Gators are going to be good and I hope that brings people out regardless of the competition and if you are reading this and are 50/50 about getting tickets to these games or not I’ll remind you that Scottie Lewis is going to be a treat to watch and he’ll only be around Gainesville for a year.
While I’ve mentioned this isn’t a super difficult schedule I don’t want to swing too far to the other side and say it’s weak because that isn’t the case either. It’s a solid schedule and one that could really set up the Gators for success in March.
Another factor to consider is that the SEC is going to be incredibly strong again this year and that’s going to give the Gators all the chances they need for quality wins. Playing one of the hardest schedules in the country probably wouldn’t be wise and I’m guessing they made some philosophical adjustments after last season.
The Charleston Classic is going to be really good for the Gators’ resume and it offers some games the Gators should win and those wins would be propped up by the fact it’s on a neutral site. There aren’t any dynamite teams in the field and the Gators could pick up some sneaky quadrant 1 or quadrant 2 victories that would be lower if they weren’t on a neutral site.
You might want to get familiar with UConn as there is a chance the Gators will play them twice in the same week with one of them being in Connecticut and the second being in Charleston. The Gators booked a home and home with UConn that comes back to Gainesville in 2020-21 and I’m assuming Florida wanted the UConn home game in this season to be near the New Jersey family and friends of Scottie Lewis. UConn should be an improved roster this year and could offer the Gators one if not two really good games.
Scheduling is as important as ever in college basketball due to the way the computer rankings factor into Selection Sunday decisions and I think the Gators did a pretty good job here putting together a schedule. It may not have a lot of games that jump off the page at you but with the SEC as strong as ever I think they made some good decisions.