It would be rather difficult for the Florida Gators to make as big a mess of their 2018-19 home opener against Charleston Southern (7 p.m., SEC Network+ or ESPN+) as they did of their season opener at Florida State.
On Tuesday, the Gators all but pratfalled through an 81-60 loss that should have been much worse, shooting poorly and showing little signs of a functional offense while eventually seeing a stout defense turn into a sieve. It was Florida’s first loss in a season opener in decades, and nearly the Gators’ worst loss to their in-state rival ever.
Fortunately for the Gators, playing Charleston Southern at home — even if it will likely happen before an intimate crowd — is probably not the test that facing FSU in Tallahassee turned out to be.
Florida’s won dozens of consecutive home openers, and usually done so in lopsided fashion: The Gators’ last single-digit win in a home opener came in 2013-14, of all years, as a Florida team that would eventually reel off 30 straight wins and make the Final Four struggled mightily without suspended senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin in a 77-69 victory over North Florida.
The Charleston Southern team that will play these Gators is also no great shakes. The Buccaneers are 1-0 this year because of a rout of non-D1 Columbia International on Tuesday, but are coming off a 15-16 season in 2017-18 in which they went 9-9 against a largely unimpressive Big South Conference. Last year’s Bucs did give Florida State a tough fight in a 69-58 loss in Tallahassee, but they also dropped three games to teams outside the top 300 in KenPom, a sign that Barclay Radebaugh — somehow, this is a name of a basketball coach in 2018, not a Red Dead Redemption 2 character — did not exactly forge a consistently competitive team.
Of course, Florida didn’t really look like one of those on Tuesday.
Hopefully, the Gators look a little more alive this Friday.