Florida’s 2021-22 schedule continued to take shape on Thursday morning with the announcement of another opponent, this time the South Florida Bulls.
News of Florida’s non-conference opponents has been trickling in since the end of the 2020-21 season and it feels to be of particular importance coming off a year where the Gators played an abbreviated out of conference schedule.
South Florida just came off a rough season going 9-13 with tons of friction occurring between the coaching staff and players following reported incidents of racially insensitive remarks from an assistant and accused mishandling of the situation by the head coach. This led to nine players transferring at the end of the season, so it’s tough to know exactly what the Gators are going to see. South Florida has landed two SEC transfers in Tennessee wing Corey Walker Jr. (a player the Gators once had interest in) and South Carolina forward Jalyn McCreary.
In other buy game news the Gators will reportedly welcome Stony Brook, a team from the America East Conference. They went 9-14 in one of the weaker conferences in the nation, and reportedly this game will be Florida’s last before the Christmas break which is historically a time when high major teams schedule low-major teams.
It was also announced that the Gators will play UW-Milwaukee, a game that became a lot more interesting after some recruiting news this past week. Five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. announced that he would be attending UW-Milwaukee as his father is the head coach there. The Panthers have been near the bottom of the Horizon League for Baldwin’s tenure there which started in 2017 going 47-70. This will be an interesting game from that standpoint–a struggling mid-major team that features a likely NBA lottery pick. Perhaps Baldwin Jr.’s commitment will bring some more talent to Milwaukee, but knowing just what to expect out of this team is a difficult challenge.
Thanksgiving week tournaments have become a highlight of the college basketball season and the Gators will play in a fun one, the Fort Myers Tip-Off. This event will feature Ohio State, Seton Hall, and Cal in addition to the Gators. While matchups haven’t been announced yet, if you went off last season’s results you would probably call Florida the two-seed and Seton Hall the three-seed out of this field, so that might be the game to mentally prepare for. However you slice it this will be an opportunity for some quality neutral site games for the Gators and a chance to play in the state.
Of course, Florida will continue to play Florida State in a series that has caused the Gators a lot of grief over the last seven years. Once again the Seminoles are long, athletic, and physical, and will tower over the Gators in multiple positions. Luckily the incoming transfers make Florida a much more experienced team that should have more poise than what we have seen in recent seasons, and it’s the Gators’ turn to host. For that reason, potentially this will be Florida’s time to break the losing streak.
Perhaps the most interesting matchup is a game with Oklahoma in a home-and-home series that was supposed to begin last year but was unable to. That home-and-home was scheduled when Lon Kruger was heading up the Sooners, but he has since retired and Oklahoma made a splashy hire bringing in Porter Moser. Moser, coming over from Loyola-Chicago, has been a name that has come up in nearly every coaching search over the last few years and Oklahoma did well to land him. He is a brilliant basketball mind when it comes to designing offensive and defensive schemes, something the Gators know all too well. Four years ago the Gators played his Loyola-Chicago Ramblers at home and got completely shut down by his hybrid pack line defense, leading to a loss in the O’Dome that had the team and fans both incredibly rattled. The Ramblers did go on to make the Final Four that season which made the loss sting a little bit less, but at the time a Missouri-Valley team coming into Gainesville and controlling a game was seen as a bit embarrassing.
The Sooners were a solid team last year who did lose a few players to graduation, but Moser did well in the transfer portal and is the kind of basketball mind that will get the best out of whatever players he has on the floor. This will be an exciting game, no doubt.
News regarding Florida’s schedule will continue to trickle in as the offseason continues, so keep it locked to Gator Country for any more announcements that may come in.