In the ever-changing world of college basketball in 2020 there seems to always be news coming in and that was just the case on Wednesday afternoon as a game was announced between the Gators and the Florida A&M Rattlers.
The game is to be played on Sunday, December 20th, which seems to have some other residual news attached. Playing this game likely means their game the day prior against Florida Atlantic will go on as scheduled. The status of that game was up in the air, but considering the Gators will be playing on Sunday you have to imagine they’ll be playing on Saturday as well.
This news comes on the heels of an encouraging update on Keyontae Johnson’s status by athletic director Scott Stricklin:
This is simply outstanding news that is a breath of fresh air and an answer to prayer for so many people, and that development in the story likely makes the Gators feel much better about continuing on with their non-conference season.
Florida A&M is currently 1-4, though their losses have come at the hands of some good teams such as Georgia, Oregon, and Oklahoma. They also dropped their season opening game to Florida Gulf Coast, somewhat less of an admirable loss.
It is worth noting that their win came against a really good Austin Peay team that had preseason AP Poll votes early in the season, though they have had some bad losses that have taken themselves well out of that level of consideration.
Scheduling Florida A&M also means the Gators have accomplished something they have been looking to do for a little while–play an HBCU. Elevating HBCU has been a focus of a number of high major basketball programs in 2020 and it’s fantastic that the Gators are taking one on after attempts to schedule one have fallen through for various reasons throughout the fall.
The Rattlers are led by Pensacola product MJ Randolph, a 6’4” guard from Pensacola that plays physically and puts his stamp on the game in a number of ways. He is averaging 16 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.4 steals on the season while hitting 50% of his threes so he’ll definitely be a player to be aware of on Sunday.
After playing Florida Atlantic (presumably) on Saturday and then Florida A&M on Sunday the Gators will close out their non-conference season next week against James Madison. Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, and James Madison should all offer relatively easy games the Gators will hopefully handle easily which is just what they need right now. With so many cancellations and now a change in roster makeup the team will need to build up some chemistry and these three games should give them a good opportunity to do that. They also have an out of conference game in the middle of SEC play in the Big 12/SEC challenge against West Virginia which will offer a chance for Florida to boost their resume. Wins against Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, and James Madison won’t exactly move the needle from a resume standpoint, so those games will be all about building towards the SEC season.
In this time we continue to send our thoughts and prayers to Keyontae Johnson and his family as his recovery continues.