Breaking down UF’s non-conference schedule

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With the season opener against Navy fast approaching, Florida will again face a rough-and-tumble non-conference schedule this season.

Of UF’s 13 non-conference opponents, seven won 20 or more games last season. Four reached the NCAA Tournament last season, while three more reached the NIT.

Here’s a breakdown of UF’s non-conference opponents. The analysis is provided courtesy of the Blue Ribbon College Yearbook, considered the most comprehensive college basketball preview magazine in the country (the magazine can be ordered at http://www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com):

Nov. 13

At Navy

Last Season: 13-19 (8-10 in Patriot League)

Coach: Ed DeChellis (33-89 in 4 years at Navy)

Starters Returning: 2

Key Player: Tilman Dunbar, pg (9.1 ppg, 3.3 apg last season)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: There is probably more potential on the Midshipmen Roster as there has been in the last decade.

Nov. 16

North Carolina A&T

Last Season: 9-23 (6-10 MEAC)

Coach: Cy Alexander (38-63 in 3 years at N.C. A&T)

Starters Returning: 5

Key Player: Bruce Beckford, f (15.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg last season)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: If Alexander’s plan works, many of last year’s starters will come off the bench. That will make the Aggies a formidable force capable of surprising many and contending for a MEAC title.

Nov. 21

Saint Joseph’s (HOF Tipoff Classic, Uncasville, Conn.)

Last Season: 13-18 (7-11 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Phil Martelli (375-265 in 19 seasons at Saint Joseph’s)

Starters Returning: 4

Key Player: DeAndre Bembry, f (17.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: Bembry is as good a player as you’ll find in the Atlantic 10, and it would be a shame for St. Joe’s to waste him. The surrounding pieces need to figure out a way to add scoring and spacing to his all-around production.

Nov. 22

Old Dominion (Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, Uncasville, Conn.)

 Last Season: 27-8 (13-5 Conference USA)

Coach: Jeff Jones, 45-26 in two seasons at Old Dominion

Starters returning: 3

Key Player: Trey Freeman, g (16.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 apg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: The Monarchs will head into the 2015-16 season as favorites to win the Conference USA title. The return of the league’s best backcourt — headlined by Freeman — helps as does the addition of Branden Stith, who has a chance to be one of the most productive big men in the conference.

Or

Purdue (Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, Uncasville, Conn)

Last Season: 21-13 (12-6 Big 10)

Coach: Matt Painter (212-125 in 10 years at Purdue)

Starters Returning: 4

Key Player: A.J. Hammons, c (11.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: It’s easy to envision the Boilers making a run at the Big Ten Title … as long the team is willing to share minutes on a roster that’s legitimately 11 deep.

Nov. 25

Vermont

Last Season: 20-14 (12-4 America East)

Coach: John Becker (87-49 in four years at Vermont)

Starters Returning: 4

Key Player:  Ethan O’Day, f (12.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: With even further reduced depth up front, Vermont will be increasingly dependent on O’Day’s presence, but also must remain cognizant to keep its star senior in games. Balancing that equation will be the key to whether the Catamounts can sustain their defensive run.

Nov. 27

Florida Gulf Coast University

Last season: 22-11 (11-3 Atlantic Sun)

Coach: Joe Dooley (44-24 in two years at FGCU)

Starters Returning: 2

Key Player: Julian DeBose, g (11.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis:  DeBose and forward Demetris Morant give the Eagles star power on both the perimeter and the front line, but success for the Eagles will be determined by role players.

Dec. 1

Richmond

Last Season: 21-14 (12-6 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Chris Mooney, 187-144 in 10 years at Richmond

Starters Returning: 4

Key Player: Terry Allen, f (13 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: The Spiders are hungry to advance to the NCAA Tournament again. They return three double-figure scorers to a unit that set a school record for fewest turnovers.

Dec. 8 at Miami

Last Season: 25-13 (10-8 ACC)

Coach: Jim Larranaga (91-49 in 4 years at Miami)

Starters Returning: 4

Key Player: Angel Rodriguez, pg (11.9 ppg. 3.9 apg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: The last time Larranaga had this much experience returning was in 2012-13, when the Hurricanes went from a team being just outside the NCAA Tournament to the ACC championship and a Sweet 16 appearance. This team could make a similar jump.

Dec. 12 at Michigan State

Last Season: 27-12 (12-6 Big Ten)

Coach: Tom Izzo (495-199 in 20 years at Michigan State)

 Starters Returning: 2

Key Player: Denzel Valentine, g-f (14.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: Izzo is hoping an offseason trip to Italy can help him figure out who on his bench deserves the most minutes once the season arrives. It’s another deep group that could lead Michigan State to its eighth Final Four under Izzo, and perhaps Izzo’s elusive second national title.

Dec. 19 Oklahoma State (Orange Bowl Classic, Sunrise)

Last Season: 18-14 (8-10 Big 12)

Coach: Travis Ford (143-91 in seven seasons at Oklahoma State)

Starters Returning: 2

Key Player: Phil Forte, g (15 ppg, 2.1 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: Ford realizes that maybe his team will be a little overlooked this season because they lack the big scorer that the Cowboys have had in the past. “But we were a team that went to the NCAA Tournament with eight new players and they all come back this year,” Ford said. “We’re athletic, quick and physical. I think we have a deep roster.”

Dec. 22

Jacksonville

Last Season: (10-22, 4-10 Atlantic Sun)

Coach: Tony Jasick (10-22 in one season at Jacksonville)

Starters Returning: 5

Key Player: Kori Babineaux (14.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: Babineaux gives the Dolphins one of the best players in the conference, and Jasick did a good job addressing his team’s needs through recruiting. Still, it’s difficult to assess whether Jacksonville has enough high-end talent to make a run at the A-Sun title.

 Dec. 29

Florida State

Last Season: 17-16 (8-10 ACC)

Coach: Leonard Hamilton (236-173 in 13 seasons at FSU)

Starters Returning: 5

Key Player: Xavier Rathan-Mayes, g (14.9 ppg, 4.3 apg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: There is every reason to think the Seminoles will be better this season. Hamilton has added newcomers with offensive skills to complement Rathan-Mayes. Perhaps more importantly, he’s added enough athletes to play the kind of shutdown defense his best teams played a few years ago.

Jan. 30

West Virginia (SEC-Big 12 Challenge)

Last Season: 25-10 (11-7 Big 12)

Coach: Bob Huggins (175-101 in 8 years at West Virginia)

 Starters Returning: 3

Key Player: Devin Williams, f (11.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg)

Blue Ribbon Analysis: Huggins may be confused how his team won 25 games giving up 47 percent shooting last season, but he doesn’t have any questions about how his team’s press-and-go style impacts opponents over the long haul. WVU will again use its waves of players and great athletic ability to make life difficult for a lot of people.