Florida is making its first NCAA Tournament since 2007 largely because of a strength of schedule that finished close to the top 30 in the nation.
Given the results, expect Florida to continue to schedule tougher for years to come. Florida has non-conference games at Florida State and at Xavier (the return for the home-and-h0me series) already slated for 2010-11.
Florida associate coach Larry Shyatt, who puts together UF’s schedule each offseason, said the Gators also have home-and-home series with three different top 10 programs coming up over the next three years.
“ We can’t announce them yet but we already have top 10s already scheduled in the next three years, home and homes,” Shyatt said. “One we started away first, two we start home first, but they are all top 10s and they are all games that people are going to be really excited about.”
UF’s stronger non-conference schedule this season came from a summer mandate from Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive. It was passed down through Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and assistant ad Greg McGarity.
The Gators faced two teams from the ACC (North Carolina State, Florida State). two from the Atlantic 10 (Richmond, Xavier), two from the Big East (Syracuse, Rutgers) and one from the Big 10 (Michigan State) during its non-conference schedule. The Gators went 4-3 in those games.
“Because of what Jeremy and Greg, thank God, encouraged us to do, I think we’ll continue down that road and try to pick and choose the best that we have to give our guys balance,” Shyatt said.
Putting together the non-conference schedule isn’t an easy job. Florida needs to block off an eight to 10-day window each December for final exams. There’s also the concern of balancing stronger opponents with weaker ones and trying to secure home-and-home series. A few years ago, for example, Florida was interested in setting up a home-and-home with North Carolina but the Tar Heels wanted to play the return game in Jacksonville instead of the O’Connell Center.
“It’s unfair sometimes to the young people in the program because they have to have a sense of balance as well,” Shyatt said. “There have been some evenings in the November-December slate where you may have an opportunity to use your eight through 11 (players in the rotation.) If not, you are really not taking advantage of that time like you should. There are no such time once January hits, in any league.”
Other NCAA Tournament tidbits:
— Don’t expect BYU junior point guard Jimmer Fredette to get easily rattled Thursday against Florida. Fredette, a Glens Falls, N.Y. , native, spent the summer playing against convicts in prisons in upstate New York. Fredette had a next-door neighbor who had a friend who ran the recreational activities and correctional centers. “I don’t know if I could repeat the stuff all the stuff that they would say,” Fredette said. “But they were just kind of heckling you most of the time. They didn’t like you at first, but you would always have a few guys there that would be rooting for you or betting on you … they bet like cigarettes and things like that, little things, so it was kind of fun.”
— Florida sophomore center Kenny Kadji (back) and junior forward Adam Allen (knee) made the trip out with the team despite being out for the year with injuries. Kadji said his back in pain free since undergoing surgery to repair herniated discs last month. He expects to resume basketball activities next month. “I need to do more stuff like shooting, running and see how it feels,” Kadji said.