JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- The University of Florida has already scheduled two basketball games in Jacksonville for the upcoming season.
Make that three — a return trip to UNF Arena.
The Gators will play the North Florida Ospreys on Dec. 1, less than nine months after winning an opening-round NIT game 97-68 at the UNF Arena on March 15. The sixth meeting between UF and UNF will occur three weeks after the Gators play their first two games of the season at the Jacksonville Veterans Arena on Nov. 11 and 13.
Belmont is Florida’s scheduled opponent on Nov. 11 and Mercer on Nov. 13.
However, the Gators may switch Belmont to a Nov. 21 game that has been contracted in Tampa. The Gators are having difficulty finding an opponent for that date and Belmont has the most flexibility to move among the teams already on Florida’s schedule.
UF basketball sports information director Denver Parler said on Monday that the Gators remain committed to play in Jacksonville on Nov. 11.
One team the Gators can’t play on that date is Jacksonville University. The Dolphins will play the University of Denver on Nov. 12.
The UNF-Florida NIT game drew 6,011, the second-largest crowd in school history behind the 6,155 that saw the Ospreys defeat S.C.-Upstate in the 2015 A-Sun Conference championship game.
Florida is playing many of its non-conference games at neutral sites in-state because a $64.5 million O’Connell Center renovation project won’t be completed until December. Barring construction delays, UF is scheduled to play its first game in the refurbished arena on Dec. 21 against Arkansas-Little Rock.
The project includes new luxury boxes, chair-back seating throughout the lower bowl and upgraded amenities.
In addition to the three games in Jacksonville, the Gators will meet St. Bonaventure in Lakeland on Nov. 17, play three times in Orlando Nov. 24-27 as part of the Advocare Invitational (the opening game will be against Seton Hall), are at Florida State on Dec. 11 and face Charlotte in Sunrise on Dec. 17.
Florida also will play Duke on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, the second game of a doubleheader after Purdue plays Arizona State. The Gators haven’t played the Blue Devils since the 2000 NCAA Tournament, when they won 87-78 in a Sweet 16 game at Syracuse.