Never thought we would say this type of thing around Gainesville, where the hype surrounding the beginning of the pigskin season is coming into full swing. Florida Gators basketball is obviously a hot topic these days, as the defending champs will come back (nearly) fully-loaded and take on some pretty interesting competition in the upcoming season.
While the final schedule has not been released yet (at least according to Gatorzone), there are already a couple games that are scheduled for this season creating a buzz within the UF Athletics program and fanbase:
Dec. 23: Florida vs. Ohio State at the Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center (Columbus, Ohio)
Freshman Greg Oden will be the best big man in college basketball the minute the Ohio State seven-footer steps on the court. Which begs the burning question: When will that be? Having undergone surgery on June 16 to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist, there's no guarantee that the Indianapolis native will be ready for this pre-Christmas blowout with the defending national champs, one of those "event games" that will command attention in Columbus and Gainesville -- and everywhere else for that matter -- during the height of bowl season. Even without Oden, Thad Matta's Buckeyes will be a mouthful for Billy Donovan's Gators -- Ohio State loses Terrence Dials from last season's Big Ten steamroller but adds four other five-star prospects on top of its just-add-water National Player of the Year candidate. The result is a dream class of incoming players that has been dubbed the Thad Five, a nod to the Michigan clubs of the early 1990s.
I do believe the UF-OSU game will be played in Gainesville, contrary to what the above article states. Either way, the atmosphere for both of these games will be electric, complimenting the Gators defense of the National title well. UF will have to be favorites seeing the amount of talent from a championship team that returned, so the target will be on their backs as historically great and up-and-coming programs shoot to knock the Gators off as the top dog.
As someone who has attended many games growing up and have been in attendance throughout my years as a student at UF, I am interested to see what kind of changes come in ticket prices and overall demand for the tickets to these games. I remember growing up thinking how great a value it was to go to a Gator basketball games (I believe when I was a kid the tickets were $8...now they are along the lines of $12). I would expect with a NC under the programs belt to see some new ticket prices and perhaps more boosters filling up the stands at the O'Connell Center. It's going to be a fun and exciting year for Gator basketball.