A year after navigating a daunting road-heavy non-conference schedule while awaiting renovations to be completed at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, the Florida Gators will be home for much of their early slate of games next season.
Eight of the Gators’ 13 non-conference games will be played in Gainesville, including matchups with the University of North Florida, Florida State and Baylor as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
“We’re all excited to get back to playing a full schedule at Exactech Arena, which our fans and the Rowdy Reptiles help make one of the great environments in college basketball,” coach Mike White told the school’s website. White’s team played in seven different cities, including Jacksonville, before its first game in Gainesville last season.
The Gators, who released their non-conference schedule Thursday, have several opportunities to bank important wins early in the season with as many as five games against NCAA Tournament teams from last season.
Florida opens with three home games before traveling to Portland, Ore., to participate in the Phil Knight Invitational.
UF begins the tournament against Stanford on Thanksgiving night and could play several combinations of Ohio State, Gonzaga, Butler, Duke, Portland State and Texas over the following three days — depending on results.
Florida returns to Gainesville to face rival Florida State and Loyola Chicago before traveling to play Cincinnati in Newark, N.J., and Clemson in the annual Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise. Home games against James Madison and Incarnate Word complete the pre-holiday schedule, and a showdown against Baylor in late January comes after conference play has started.
“It’s great preparation for the SEC season,” White said.
The Gators will be bolstered by the return of center John Egbunu in addition to talented guards Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen from a team that finished 27-9 and made a surprise run to the Elite Eight last spring during White’s second season.
The lone exhibition game on Florida’s schedule is against Tampa. The SEC schedule has not yet been released. Time and TV information will be released at a later date.