After losing in a way barely worth mentioning to West Virginia, it’s fair to say Wednesday night appears to be a golden chance to get Todd Golden’s first season back on track.
No, Florida A&M coming to the O’Connell Center is not the sort of showdown that would provide an opportunity to cancel out or offset a 29-point loss to the Mountaineers. But the Rattlers also aren’t Texas Southern — which beat Florida, and soundly, in a similar game a year ago — nor the kind of HBCU-representing squad that tours the nation during non-conference play to fill its athletic department’s coffers with the proceeds from so-called “buy games” while still having a chance to win them.
FAMU is, instead, the sort of HBCU-representing squad that tours the nation during non-conference play to fill its athletic department’s coffers with the proceeds from so-called “buy games” — and really doesn’t have a shot in them.
The Rattlers made the NCAA Tournament in 2007, and by grace of the Selection Committee were sent to one of the first play-in games between No. 16 seeds instead of fed to defending national champion Florida — which demolished Jackson State, 112-69, in its No. 1 vs. 16 matchup. Since that 2007 season and the departure of coach Mike Gillespie — who was fired by the school that offseason after he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of stalking — FAMU has finished above No. 300 in KenPom just once, and won 15 games only in 2008.
This year’s Rattlers could be the worst of even that dismal period. They’re 1-4, with all four losses being poundings by power-conference opponents and the lone win coming in overtime against Division II Albany State, and rank No. 359 — fifth from dead last — in KenPom. About the only thing they have done well against teams with far, far more resources is defend against the three, and those numbers are aided significantly by Oregon going 6-for-25 against them in their opener; Albany State managed to hit 10 threes in that game.
So, uh, yeah: Florida should roll in this one, and estimating a margin of victory around 30 points isn’t hard, especially given that the Gators’ lone win in Portland was over Oregon State by a not-as-close-as-it-seems 13 — and that the Beavers beat the Rattlers by 17.
But last year’s Florida team proved a colossal upset in a game like this is possible — and this year’s team just played about 35 minutes of moribund basketball wrapped around five minutes of decent stuff.
The Gators simply proving capable of flushing that rout from their system would be good, but nothing but a big win is likely to be particularly impressive in this one.