With Florida officially announcing most of their 2020-21 non-conference schedule on Tuesday the season is really starting to take shape and we can start to see the challenges the Gators are going to take. There are a few familiar teams on deck but a few that you may not know a lot about so I thought I’d give some quick insight into each team the Gators will see.
The Bulldogs come from the Southern Conference and are one of the fastest teams in the country. Their frantic pace is mostly to make up the talent deficit that they have in what’s a good league and the Gators are going to see the Bulldogs try to push everything in the fast break. Samford also plays a good deal of zone so in the first game of the season the Gators will need to be ready for atypical defensive looks.
FSU has won 6 straight against the Gators… what more needs to be said?
The Seminoles recent domination over the Gators has been the cause of extreme frustration for both the team and the fan base and while you don’t want to jinx anything…this should be a good year for the Gators to break the curse. Florida State is losing some key players and unlike recent years they aren’t bringing in an elite recruiting class. However, they are bringing in one absolute stud in Scottie Barnes who could very well be the best player in the class, or at least be in that conversation. It’s going to be a tough game but man, this is one that Florida needs.
The “Birds Of Trey” from North Florida have used a three-point heavy assault over the last few years to be an effective and fun mid-major team but they’re graduating a ton of talent. You can be sure they’re going to keep launching a lot of threes and being a fun team to watch but they won’t have the veteran talent that has really made the style viable recently.
Sneakily one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country last year McNeese State has a few sharpshooters and they’ll be returning to the Cowboys next year and the Gators will have to contend with them. One of the best offensive mid-major teams in the country McNeese State is a lot of fun to watch, though they were horrendous defensively which lost them a lot of games.
We still don’t know who the Gators will play first in the Emerald Coast Classic but any one of these three would provide a great game. Oregon definitely appears to be the best team out of the bunch returning a lot of their key players from what was a solid team in the Pac-12 this past season and Illinois is seeing a resurgence in the Big Ten. Iowa State is almost certainly going to be in a rebuilding phase and if this tournament was seeded with the Gators as number one they’d see the Cyclones first. They’re an offensive focused team who didn’t score it enough last year to make up for lackluster defense and they’re losing some key pieces so this would give the Gators a chance for a nice neutral site win over a power conference team.
This was the most recent game to be announced and it should be a fun one. The Sooners lack high-end scoring talent but they played connected basketball that was quite successful this past season and most of those players are back so this is a team that will likely exceed whatever preseason ranking they have in the Big 12. This would be a nice under-the-radar win for the Gators.
Florida would love to get some revenge after a poor effort saw them fall to the Huskies this past season but it will be a challenging W to snag. The Gators didn’t even get to see James Bouknight, a player who led the way for the Huskies the second half of the season and Akok Akok really improved as well and both of those players are back. Additionally, UConn has two top-100 players in Andre Jackson and Adama Sanogo who are projected to be solid players right away so this is going to be a difficult game.
The Dukes ended this season losing 15 of 16 games and arguably their best player Dwight Wilson, who the Gators had some interest in, left as a graduate transfer. They’re another team on Florida’s schedule who plays extremely fast, something it appears the staff may have tried to do to encourage the Gators to play faster, but this should be an easier game.
Stony Brook had a really good season in the America East Conference last season but, as is sadly the case with a lot of mid-majors, that meant the big boys came calling for their players. Multiple starters made their way out to head for bigger leagues and more known brands and that has left the Seawolves pretty depleted for talent. Their coach Geno Ford used to be at Kent State where there is likely a connection with Florida assistant Jordan Mincy which may have helped this game get scheduled, so that’s an interesting side note to this game. This is the last non-conference game for the Gators and they should be able to get a comfortable win and go into SEC play confident.
Most predictive analytics haven’t yet put up their 2020-21 rankings but one has and it happens to be my favorite of the analytics tools- Bart Torvik. Here is where he has each Florida opponent (and potential opponent) ranked entering the season.
Florida State: 17th
North Florida: 310th
McNeese State: 293rd
Iowa State: 82nd
James Madison: 294th
Stony Brook: 332nd
There are still two games yet to be officially announced including a neutral site game in Brooklyn and the Orange Bowl Classic. While opponents for these games haven’t been officially announced there are plenty of rumors out there, but they will be quality opponents that will boost Florida’s strength of schedule. Mike White has always wanted to challenge his team and it doesn’t appear this season is any different.