Florida close to scheduling basketball series with Michigan State

Just because Billy Donovan is gone doesn’t mean the Florida basketball program will shy away from tough competition.

Numerous reports have come out that Florida and Michigan State are close to coming to an agreement to play a home and home series in basketball. The agreement would see the two teams play in East Lansing this winter, and then next year in Gainesville after the O’Dome renovations are complete.

The Gators and Spartans already have a little pseudo-rivalry going. Michigan State knocked off Florida in the 2000 national championship game, leaving lots of older Gator fans with the same sort of everlasting anger toward the Spartans that they have toward Nebraska for the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. Sparty would add insult to injury by bouncing the Gators from the Tourney again three years later, this time in the second round. To their credit, the Erving Walker led Gators got a small dose of payback by stunning the undefeated, #2 Spartans in a Thanksgiving tournament in November of 2009. The two teams are also scheduled to participate in the nationwide “barnstorming” event that will see four teams (the other two being North Carolina and Texas) play each other once in a different city in a round robin format.

So yeah, this should be fun.

Short term, it’s a nice addition to the 2015-16 schedule. The Gators will take road trips to Miami and Navy, host the Big 12/SEC challenge (most likely against Oklahoma) and FSU, and participate in the Hall of Fame tournament in Connecticut, where they’ll face St. Joe’s and then either Purdue or Old Dominion. That’s not a weak schedule by any means, but it’s not a gauntlet, either. Then add Michigan State, and now you’ve got a schedule strength that the NCAA Committee cannot ignore.

That is, if Florida’s good enough to be on the bubble.