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Florida men’s basketball pausing team activities, won’t play first two games due to COVID-19 tests

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A promising roster will have to wait for its season to start in earnest.

NCAA Florida versus ETSU men’s basketball tournament Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team has paused team activities for one week due to positive COVID-19 tests and contract tracing protocols, per a statement released by the program on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

That pause means, as the statement notes, that Florida will not play previously scheduled games against UMass Lowell and Virginia at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut as part of the so-called “Bubbleville” tipoff series of games set to be played at the facility over the next week as part of the beginning of the 2020-21 men’s Division I college basketball season.

Florida’s game on Wednesday against UMass Lowell had already been a changed object, the first of this entire subject to change season: The Gators swapped in the Spinners — dealing with their own COVID-19 issues at present — for Maine after event organizers lost Saint Peter’s (now taking part in a three-team event hosted by St. John’s), also flipping Florida and Virginia’s first opponents in the process.

The showdown with still-defending 2019 national champion Virginia, however, had been announced in October and circled on many calendars as an early measuring stick for both sides. That it won’t happen should probably be a bigger bummer for Florida, which has shredded Virginia’s famed pack-line defense in meetings with Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers in the 2013 and 2017 NCAA Tournaments under both Billy Donovan and White.

Florida will now look to a December 2 road trip to Oklahoma as its new season opener, provided that COVID-19 results and isolation protocols allow it to make a second trip to Norman to face former Florida coach Lon Kruger and the Sooners for the third time in five seasons.