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Tuesday August 5, 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis bracket falls in line with Donovan's scheduling commitment

Updated: 11:16am, August 5

Billy D and SliveGAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The official release of the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket Tuesday morning, with Florida facing Georgetown in the opening round, is further evidence of Coach Billy Donovan’s commitment to playing challenging and attractive non-conference schedules.

Not to mention his making good on a promise he made to the guy in charge at the Southeastern Conference office.

The 2009 NCAA men’s basketball tournament included three teams from the SEC. That trio did not include Kentucky, the league’s traditional blueblood, or Florida, which was a mere two years removed a second straight national championship. By end of that tourney's first weekend, the three SEC teams -- LSU, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt -- were out, with two eliminated in the first round.

That’s when league commissioner Mike Slive (pictured in the center of 2013 team photo above) went to Donovan, then and still the dean of conference coaches, and made an impassioned plea to take the lead in the SEC’s effort to upgrade non-conference basketball schedules in an attempt to bolster RPI ratings and get more teams in the March Madness postseason party. The Gators, admittedly, had put together relatively soft schedules after saying goodbye to Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, et all, and the SEC’s first back-to-back national championship program of college basketball’s modern era.

Slive said that needed to change. Not just at Florida, but across the league. And not just for a few years, but annually.

UF’s six schedules since have reflected Donovan’s willingness to take on some of the marquee programs in the country, as well as appease the SEC within the confines of the UF coach trying to keep his non-conference sanity. Three games against nationally recognized programs in November balanced with five days Thanksgiving week at Paradise Island the Bahamas should address both fronts this preseason. [Note: Travel package information available here.]

There's also that road game at Kansas. And a neutral-site date against Wake Forest.

Oh, and that home game against Connecticut.

Here’s a list of Florida’s biggest non-conference games since the edict Slive sent down from the SEC office five years ago. The list does not include the always-tough showdown against rival Florida State that has been played annually since 1978 and is on the schedule this season for Dec. 30 at Tallahassee. It does include several of the Orange Bowl Classic games in South Florida, which vary as far as the strength of the opponent.

And while we're on the subject of Florida basketball, deadline to purchase UF 2014-15 season tickets is Aug. 15.


Parsons prayer 2009-10
* vs Michigan State (Legends Classic, Atlantic City, N.J.) -- W 77-74
* vs Rutgers (Legends Classic, Atlantic City, N.J.) -- W 73-58
* vs Syracuse (Tampa, Fla.) -- L 85-73
* vs Richmond (Orange Bowl Classic, Sunrise, Fla.) --  L 56-53
* at North Carolina State -- W 62-61 (OT)
Comment: The game against NC State, won by Chandler Parson’s 60-foot prayer at the buzzer (right), actually was contracted two years earlier as the return game of a home-and-home series. After two straight trips to the NIT, this schedule helped the Gators, who went 21-13 that year, earn their first NCAA berth in three years. 

Xavier 2010-11
* Ohio State -- L 93-75
* vs Kansas State (Orange Bowl Classic, Sunrise, Fla.) -- W 65-52
* vs UCF (Orlando) -- L 57-54
* at Xavier -- W 71-67
Comment: Playing UCF about 10 miles from its campus wasn’t very neutral, even though Gators fans out-numbered Knights fans that night. But former Donovan assistant Donnie Jones pulled off the upset. Maybe that helped Billy D get his players attention three weeks later when UF ended the nation’s second-longest home winning streak (30 games) by upsetting Xavier at Cincinnati. The Gators went on to win the SEC regular-season crown and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA field.

Arizona2011-12
* at Ohio State -- L 81-74
* at Syracuse -- L 72-68
* Arizona -- W 78-72 (OT)
* at Rutgers -- L 85-83 (2OT)
Comment: By early February, when the Gators went to Kentucky and got drilled by 20, they’d already played the Nos. 1 (Wildcats), 2 (Ohio State) and 3 (Syracuse) teams in the country. That Florida team finished in a three-way tie for second in the SEC and went on to advance to the Elite Eight.  

2012-13
Navy game * vs Georgetown (Navy-Marines Corps Classic, Mayport, Fla.) -- Cancelled  
* Wisconsin -- W 74-56
* Marquette -- W 82-49
* at Arizona  -- L 65-64
* at Kansas State (at Kansas City) -- L 67-61
* at Yale -- W 79-58
Comment: The game against the Hoyas on a naval destroyer outside Jacksonville was a wonderful idea that was poorly executed. Scheduling a tipoff for 9 p.m., with the threat of condensation at that time of year, was insane. The game was cancelled at halftime with the Gators leading by four. A month later, UF went to Tucson to play in one of the nation's toughest venues. If you’re not impressed by a road game at Yale, go there and ask how many annual Top-10 programs would agree to play in 100-year-old gym that seat 2,500?

Wiggins2013-14
* at Wisconsin -- L 59-53
* at Connecticut -- L 65-64
* Kansas -- W 68-62
* vs Memphis (Jimmy V Classic, New York) -- W 77-75
* Richmond -- W 67-58
Comment: Wisconsin joined the Gators in the Final Four. UConn, which won on a second-chance buzzer-beater, went on to defeat UF in their Final Four rematch and upend Kentucky in for the national title. Kansas had the Nos. 1 and 3 overall picks in the NBA draft (Andrew Wiggins, right, and Joel Embiid). Memphis at Madison Square Garden had the feel of a Sweet 16 game. Great schedule that prepared the Gators for that remarkable, school-record run of 30 straight wins.

2014-15
* Nov. 17 - Miami, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)  
* Nov. 26 - vs Georgetown (Battle 4 Atlantis, Paradise, Bahamas), 9:30 p.m. 
* Nov. 27 - vs either Wisconsin or UAB (Battle 4 Atlantis), 3:30 or 9:30 p.m.
* Nov. 28 - TBA (either Butler, North Carolina, Oklahoma or UCLA).
* Dec. 5 - at Kansas
* Dec. 20 - vs Wake Forest (Orange Bowl Classic, Sunrise, Fla.)  
* Jan. 3 - Connecticut
Comment: A home-and-home series with the Hurricanes starts in Gainesville. Later in the month, the Gators can settle that incomplete battleship fiasco in the Bahamas, with possible games against two top-20 teams (maybe top 10) after that. Then the Jayhawks. Then the Demon Deacons. Did we mention there's a home game against reigning national champion UConn on the schedule, too?
 

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