Florida is due to release its 2010-11 schedule some time in August.
But one major non-conference game already has been announced. For the second straight season, Florida will face a Big Ten opponent in November. The Gators will host Ohio State on Nov. 16 at the O’Connell Center, a marquee matchup that will serve as part of ESPN’s 24 straight hours of college basketball coverage.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he chose to schedule the game due to his respect and friendship with Florida coach Billy Donovan.
“I think you’ve got two great universities, two great basketball programs going at it, and hey, Billy does things the right away,” Matta said. “I always enjoy going against him.”
Florida and Ohio State played a home-and-home series in 2006-07 and 2007-08, with both teams winning on their home floors. Sandwiched in between, Florida beat Ohio State 84-75 in April of 2007 to claim its second straight national title.
Ohio State comes into the 2010-11 season losing Big Ten player of the year Evan Turner, who was picked second overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in last June’s NBA draft. But senior guards David Lighty and Jon Diebler are back for the Buckeyes. And top freshman big-man Jared Sullinger (6-9, 280 pounds) will be a challenge for UF’s experineced frontcourt to contain underneath the basket.
“We’ve got a few question marks coming into the season,” Matta said. “And that’s what excites me about that game is I know how good Florida is going to be. And I think it’s going to be a good early test for us with six new guys joining our team.”
With all five starters back, Florida will likely enter the season ranked in the top 25. Still the game could serve as an important momentum-builder. Last season, Florida upset Florida State and Michigan State in back-to-back November games. Those wins helped Florida clinch its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007.
“It will be a great challenge for us especially as early as the game is,” Matta said. “We may be a little bit sloppy down there but we’ll come out of there a better basketball team.”
As part of the contract, Florida will return play at Ohio State in 2011-12.