Last season, the Florida Gators’ basketball team experienced their worst season since Billy Donovan’s first year. Obviously, the mission is to erase last season from memory with a bounce-back 2015-16 season, and now we know where that mission will begin.
The Gators will start the season at Annapolis, MD, in the Veterans’ Classic on November 13th. It’s the first time Florida will open the season on the road since 2000 at FSU, and it comes against a Navy team that struggled even more than Florida did last year. The Midshipmen limped to a 13-19 finish, compared to Florida’s 16-17 record.
In addition to playing the basketball game, the Gator players will get a chance to experience the unique lifestyle of the Naval Academy. Billy Donovan called the event “a unique opportunity for our team not just on the court, but it’s a chance for our guys to interact with people their age who are leading a really special way of life in service to our country. The qualities that the Naval Academy represents – duty, honor and loyalty – are characteristics that we can all aspire to living out. I know this will be an outstanding experience to tip off our season.”
I do find it to be a small relief to see Donovan be so quick to comment on the trip, given his reported status as a frontrunner for the newly vacant Oklahoma City Thunder job. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, as he’s still under contract to coach the Gators, meaning that his job is to continue to recruit for Florida and fulfill all other obligations required of a Florida Gators head coach.
With the announcement of this game, Florida’s out of conference schedule is starting to really come together.
The Gators will participate in the Mohegan Sun tip-off tournament on November 21-22, a four team tournament in Uncasville, CT, that features Florida, St. Joe’s, Old Dominion and Purdue. The Gators will face St. Joe’s in the first game while Old Dominion and Purdue will play the other semifinal; winners will then face off while the losers play in the third place game.
Also on the Gators’ schedule: a road trip to Miami in December, a home game against FSU (likely in November) and their annual participation in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, which will probably be in Gainesville because they were on the road last year.