The 2021-22 Florida Gators basketball season started to take a lot more shape on Thursday as the SEC schedule was officially announced, something that makes hoops seem a whole lot closer.
Here is how everything shook out.
December 29 @ Ole Miss
January 5 Alabama
January 8 @ Auburn
January 12 LSU
January 15 @ South Carolina
January 29 Mississippi State
January 22 Vanderbilt
January 26 @ Tennessee
February 2 @ Missouri
February 5 Ole Miss
February 9 Georgia
February 12 @ Kentucky
February 15 @ Texas A&M
February 19 Auburn
February 22 Arkansas
February 26 @ Georgia
March 1 @ Vanderbilt
March 5 Kentucky
Objectively, it feels the Gators’ conference schedule shook out quite nicely for them.
Their two rotational rivals this year are Ole Miss and Auburn, meaning the Gators play them twice. Ole Miss and Auburn are both teams projected to finish in the middle of the SEC, meaning they will offer decent resume opportunities without the chance for a devastating loss. Of course, the regular “permanent rival” series remain the same, as the Gators will also see Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt twice. This has been a favorable arrangement for the Gators recently as the extra difficult game against Kentucky has been counteracted by the relatively easy games against Georgia and Vanderbilt who will once again be picked to finish near the bottom of the league. The Commodores do have superstar scorer Scotty Pippen Jr. returning and he’ll be as good of a player as there is in college basketball, though past him, Vanderbilt is lacking in the talent department. Georgia was absolutely gutted by the transfer portal, and after an already difficult season that means they could be in for another very unpleasant season.
Walking through the season, there is a nice flow that looks like a good ride for the Gators. They start against Ole Miss, and then get a really good Alabama team. Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide transfer Nimari Burnett (an elite high school prospect that started his career at Texas Tech) suffered a knee injury that will see him miss the entire season. They still have a boatload of talent, but might still be figuring out how to put the pieces together early in the season, meaning this will be a good time for the Gators to play one of the best teams in the league.
The Gators will then play another team with some bad injury luck, the Auburn Tigers. Allen Flanigan, a stellar returning wing who will be one of the most impactful Tigers, just suffered an achilles injury that will see him out at least a few months. He is expected to return midway through the season, so the Gators may miss him entirely, or maybe see him before he’s back at full strength.
The stretch of LSU, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt (with three of four coming at home) will be a chance for Florida to string together some wins and hopefully stake out some real estate at the top of the SEC standings. The Gators will then have a tough contest on the road against Tennessee, a place they haven’t recently had a whole lot of success, but then they get a decent run of Missouri, Ole Miss, and Georgia to get back on track even if the Volunteers game goes sideways.
Then, Florida will have an interesting stretch starting on the road at Rupp against Kentucky, followed by games against Auburn and then Arkansas. Kentucky on the road is never easy, and should be made even more challenging this year with the veteran transfers that the Wildcats have on the roster.
Arkansas could very well end up being the best team in the SEC, and seeing them in late February could mean a very difficult game with Arkansas being close to a finished product by that point.
If the Gators find themselves in a late season battle for SEC Tournament seeding, they luckily have two of their last three games against Georgia and Vanderbilt who will likely end up at the bottom of the SEC standings. This should be two games the Gators feel confident in, though it’s worth noting both gave Florida scares a year ago.
Finally, as has often been the case, Florida closes out their regular season against Kentucky. Luckily this one will be at home, a final chance for the Gainesville faithful to see their team at home.
If you didn’t already know, the SEC Tournament takes place in Tampa this year, potentially giving the Gators a bit of home court advantage.
Overall, it’s a favorable schedule for the Gators. There doesn’t appear to be any stretches of games that are particularly harrowing, as was the case a few seasons ago. The teams that are predicted to be some of the best in the SEC are sprinkled rather evenly throughout Florida’s slate, so there aren’t any noticeable trouble spots where you could assume there’d be a chance at a slide.
Exactly how good the Gators will be this year is still a question but at least we know that the SEC schedule won’t be a hindrance in what they want to accomplish.
Once again the SEC is going to be a very good league with all the opportunities the Gators could want for resume boosting opportunities. If the Gators take care of business they’ll get a great seed in the NCAA Tournament where they can hopefully go on to do some damage.