If this year had a catchphrase, it would probably be “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” The truth of that age-old aphorism has undoubtedly been felt by the Gators men’s basketball program in their delayed start to the 2020-21 season. Initially scheduled for their first tip-off of the season on November 25th, their opening game against UMass Lowell and the following two games were all canceled due to COVID concerns.
Unless something goes terribly wrong (here’s a friendly reminder that jinxes don’t exist) Florida should finally open their season on Wednesday afternoon against Army West Point at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Gators’ roster has experienced a fair amount of turnover below the surface, but the team will still be anchored by pair of familiar faces.
“Florida returns stalwart juniors Keyontae Johnson, who earned All-SEC honors while averaging 14.0 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, and Noah Locke, who shot .432 from 3-point range and averaged 10.6 points,” boasts the published game notes. “Johnson earned preseason SEC Player of the Year from the media and first-team All-SEC recognition from coaches and the media.”
One of the Gators’ more notable additions is power forward Osayi Osifo, who has all the early makings of a fan favorite. Born in South Africa and joining the team courtesy of a transfer from junior college, the 6-foot-8-inch junior has a reputation for intensity and quiet leadership.
The day we've all been waiting for is 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞.
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) December 2, 2020
The oddsmakers at DraftKings predict that Florida will come away victorious in this matchup, favoring them by 18.5 points in the afternoon contest. If that comes to fruition, it would constitute Army’s first loss on the season — they’ve established an oppressive defense and come away to a trio of wins in their first three games as a result.
A winnable matchup against a defense-first team, this game effectively serves as a litmus test for how well the Gators’ new-look offense will perform out of the gate. The team’s 2020-21 schedule is no cakewalk, but if the team’s leading scorers hold steady and are able to click with the freshly assembled group rotational players, they should be able to improve on last season’s 19-12 record.