Florida’s 2020-21 non-conference schedule got a boost on Thursday as it was announced that the Gators will be taking on Penn State on December 13 in New York City. Exactly what event this will be hasn’t been disclosed yet, but it is known that the other game taking place will be West Virginia battling Purdue.
Playing in New York City is starting to become a regular occurrence for the Gators as they took on Providence at Barclays Center this past season and West Virginia at Madison Square Garden’s in 2018-19. They even played Cincinnati in New Jersey in 2017-18, so the Gators have been quite comfortable in the North East.
Florida’s recruiting efforts in the area have been ramping up recently, punctuated by them landing Scottie Lewis from New Jersey and followed by them getting 2020 wing Niels Lane, also from New Jersey. The Gators currently have offers out to a handful of players in the area who they’ll be hoping can attend, and with a ton of Florida alumni in the area I’m sure they’ll have their fair share of fan support.
In addition to the game against Penn State that was just announced the Gators also have the return game against UConn at home, and they’ll be taking part in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Florida. That event has some talented teams such as Illinois, Iowa State, and Oregon, so there will definitely be multiple opportunities for schedule building wins.
They never had the chance to really show it on the national stage since post season play was cancelled but the Penn State Nittany Lions were a rock solid team this year that was projected to be a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They were led by wing Lamar Stevens, who does graduate this year, but they’re set to return 5 of their top 6 most productive players so they’ll certainly be a good team once again. Under coach Pat Chambers they’ve developed an identity as a team that’s going to get out and run offensively and play pressure-packed defense, the exact style of play that gave the Gators problems this season.
With Stevens gone the player to watch out for will be Myles Dread, a 6’4” guard that lives behind the 3-point line. While he had a bit of a sophomore slump shooting the basketball this year he was an excellent marksman as a freshman and entering his junior season it’s likely he starts to put together some more consistency, and even if he isn’t knocking down shots he’s a stout defensive player on the other end who can take on difficult defensive assignments.
Penn State doesn’t have a star-studded high school recruiting class coming in but they did land one of the most sought after JUCO prospects in the country, 6’10” post Valdir Manuel. In Manuel the Nittany Lions are getting a player with great physicality and the strength to overpower most matchups, and he’s definitely a player ready to contribute as soon as he steps on a D1 floor.
Playing Penn State on a neutral Floor this season would have been considered a quad-1 game, and it’s almost certainly going to hold the same weight when the Gators see them this season. This is a challenge that will give the Gators a chance at boosting their resume early and will definitely be one of the highlights of the non-conference season.