With the SEC's Tuesday release of its men's basketball schedule for the 2016-17 season, we now know the Florida Gators schedule for the 2016-17 season. And while the Gators won't occupy the post-renovation O'Connell Center — now called Exactech Arena at the O'Connell Center — until late December for a non-conference game, the Gators' SEC home opener is going to be a big game.
That's because the Gators will host Mississippi — coach Mike White's alma mater — for that game, on January 3, the first game in 2017.
The rest of Florida's SEC schedule holds a couple of surprises. Most notably, the Gators won't be Kentucky's Senior Day opponent, instead seeing the Wildcats twice in February for Saturday clashes on CBS. (Kentucky will play Vanderbilt on Senior Day.)
But the Gators also netted an appealing set of home-and-home foes. Georgia, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt remain the Gators' three "permanent" opponents, and are joined by Arkansas and South Carolina. Those latter two teams will see Florida both early and late: They host the Gators over their first six SEC contests, then visit Gainesville over the final two weeks of SEC play.
Arkansas, specifically, will see Florida very early and very late. The Razorbacks host Florida on December 30, in the earliest SEC opener for the Gators since the 1988-89 season, when LSU came to the O'Connell Center on December 10. And just like that LSU team, the Gators won't see the Hogs again until March 1.
While Kentucky is a perennial power, and Vanderbilt was one of three SEC teams to make the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the four non-Kentucky teams in that quintet have all been more or less middle-of-the-pack outfits in recent years, and Vanderbilt lost (perhaps "lost") long-time coach Kevin Stallings to Pittsburgh this offseason.
This is an SEC schedule that sets up for an NCAA Tournament run, in other words.
The full Florida Gators men's basketball schedule for 2016-17 looks like this now.
Florida Gators Men's Basketball 2016-17 Schedule
|November 11, 2016||Florida Gulf Coast||Jacksonville, FL||First meeting since 2013 NCAA Tournament|
|November 13, 2016||Mercer||Jacksonville, FL||Bears memorably upset Duke in 2014 NCAA Tournament, own 7-5 all-time record vs. Gators|
|November 17, 2016||St. Bonaventure||Lakeland, FL||Game likely to be played at 8,000-seat Lakeland Civic Center|
|November 21, 2016||Belmont||Tampa, FL||Coach Rick Byrd has .664 winning percentage at Belmont|
|November 24, 2016||Seton Hall||Orlando, FL (AdvoCare Invitational)||Pirates finished No. 22 in KenPom in 2015-16|
|November 25, 2016||Gonzaga or Quinnipiac||Orlando, FL (AdvoCare Invitational)||Gators will play team from Spokane or Hamden, CT in City Beautiful|
|November 27, 2016||TBD||Orlando, FL (AdvoCare Invitational)||Other AdvoCare teams: Indiana State, Iowa State, Miami, Stanford|
|December 1, 2016||North Florida||Jacksonville, FL||Gators routed Ospreys, 97-68, in NIT opener|
|December 6, 2016||Duke||New York City (Jimmy V Classic)||Gators are 4-12 all-time against Duke|
|December 11, 2016||Florida State||Tallahassee, FL||Seminoles have won last two in series|
|December 17, 2016||Charlotte||Sunrise, FL (Orange Bowl Classic)||Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze led 49ers in minutes, threes (106), 3PT% (42.7 percent) in 2015-16|
|December 21, 2016||Arkansas-Little Rock||Gainesville, FL||Home opener for new O'Dome|
|December 29, 2016||Arkansas||Fayetteville, AR||Gators' first December SEC contest in nearly three decades|
|January 3, 2017||Mississippi||Gainesville, FL||Gators open SEC home slate against White's alma mater|
|January 7, 2017||Tennessee||Gainesville, FL||Gators host Vols for first time since Billy Donovan's 500th win|
|January 10, 2017||Alabama||Tuscaloosa, AL||Crimson Tide topped Gators in only 2015-16 meeting|
|January 14, 2017||Georgia||Gainesville, FL||Gators swept season series in 2015-16|
|January 18, 2017||South Carolina||Columbia, SC||Frank Martin entering fifth season with Gamecocks|
|January 21, 2017||Vanderbilt||Gainesville, FL||Gators get first look at new Vandy coach Bryce Drew|
|January 25, 2017||LSU||Baton Rouge, LA||Gators topped Tigers, No. 1 pick Ben Simmons in 2015-16|
|January 28, 2017||Oklahoma||Norman, OK||Gators' second meeting with former coach Lon Kruger|
|February 2, 2017||Missouri||Gainesville, FL||Tigers are winless in Gainesville in two tries|
|February 4, 2017||Kentucky||Gainesville, FL||Gators host Saturday showdown with Kentucky for second time in three years|
|February 7, 2017||Georgia||Athens, GA||Dawgs should be led by diminuitive J.J. Frazier|
|February 11, 2017||Texas A&M||Gainesville, FL||Aggies shared SEC title with Kentucky in 2015-16|
|February 14, 2017||Auburn||Auburn, AL||Awww, a Valentine's Day date with Bruce Pearl|
|February 18, 2017||Mississippi State||Starkville, MS||Five-star Malik Newman left for Kansas in offseason|
|February 21, 2017||South Carolina||Gainesville, FL||'Cocks last Gainesville win: 2011|
|February 25, 2017||Kentucky||Lexington, KY||Wildcats will probably have multiple NBA Draft picks, puzzling losses in 2016-17|
|March 1, 2017||Arkansas||Gainesville, FL||Florida sees Hogs on Senior Day for first time ever|
|March 4, 2017||Vanderbilt||Nashville, TN||Commodores host Gators for Saturday Senior Day|