Florida’s schedule

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Eating all of those cupcakes finally has caught up to Florida.

Considering that 11 of the 34 at-large berths in the NCAA Tournament had as many or more losses than Gators this season, it’s clear a main reason why the Florida missed the tournament for a second straight season was its soft non-conference schedule.

Yes, Florida posted an impressive early season win against Pac-10 regular-season champion Washington. But what hurt the Gators more were wins against Florida Gulf Coast, Longwood, Florida A&M and Missouri-Kansas City. All four schools ended the season with RPI’s of 297 or lower.

I asked Florida coach Billy Donovan earlier Monday if he would consider altering his pre-conference schedule to play tougher teams in the future.

“I still think the tournament selection committee always looks first at your league record,” Donovan said. “We were 8-8 last year, 9-7 this year. We probably had some opportunities against South Carolina, against Georgia where we could have had more conference wins but didn’t get over the hump.

“I still think there has to be a balance to it. We’ve been scheduling this way for a number of years and it’s worked. You can schedule more difficult teams early, but it doesn’t work if you lose more games.”

It looks as though next season’s non-conference schedule could be more challenging. Florida is contracted to play road games at Rutgers and at North Carolina State. In addition, a source close to the program that Florida could end up playing Connecticut in Tampa next season for the Big East-SEC challenge. The source also said the Gators are trying to work out a home-and-home series with Clemson beginning next season.