Florida basketball prepares for the second game of the 2023-24 campaign on Friday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a matchup with the Virginia Cavalier for the Hall of Fame Series.
Both teams won their season-openers, with the Gators throttling the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds in the O’Connell Center Monday night while the Cavs whipped the Tarleton State Texans on their home court that same evening. Neither team is in the top 25 of either poll, but UVA does have votes in both while the Gators earned recognition in just one.
After an easy start to the schedule, Florida faces its first real test early on. While it is a game away from Gainesville, it’s technically a neutral court affair that should break even for the Orange and Blue. As for the rest? Take a look below at what to expect.
Expected Starters: Florida
Walter Clayton Jr.
6-2 / 195
6-4 / 206
6-5 / 207
6-10 / 239
7-1 / 235
Expected Starters: Virginia
6-9 / 211
6-3 / 194
6-6 / 202
6-4 / 188
6-8 / 216
Key Player: Riley Kugel (Florida)
Florida will be relying on its primary scorer all season so he must continue to play at a high level — especially against a much more difficult opponent. The sophomore out of Orlando dropped 23 points in the season opener making two-thirds of his shot attempts while also snagging six steals and three boards.
Sure, it is a team sport and it takes five players at a time to succeed, but Kugel is the kind of guy that sets the tempo for the rest of the roster. He is also chasing an NBA draft pick this spring, so Golden will be giving him every chance to make his mark.
“He did a great job at attacking downhill and he did a really good job putting the ball in the basket,” the skipepr said of Kugel after the Loyola win. “Overall, 10-of-15, and just a fantastic — he does a great job reading an opportunity to go make a play on the ball. You know, to get six steals is really impressive.”
Key Player: Reece Beekman (Virginia)
Last season, point guard Beekman averaged 9.5 points and 5.3 assists during his junior campaign which showed both improvements and some slippage from his standout sophomore season. However, it was good enough to get the eye of the NBA draft scouts.
“While he’s not the most flashy guard in the country, Beekman simply gets the job done and produces, FanNation’s report begins. “With a surface-level look at Beekman’s stats you may not come away impressed, but when digging into his game and watching him play it’s easy to see why he’s a future NBA prospect.
The Cavalier was simply one of the best in the country last season as it relates to creating for others without turning the ball over,” they continue. “His assist numbers are even more impressive when you consider how slow Virginia plays as a team.”
Both teams are outside of the respective major top 25 rankings, with Virginia garnering votes in both while Florida only received some in the Coaches Poll. These are two programs with potential that is waiting to be turned kinetic, and this early in the season it is really difficult to know what will appear on the court.
However, Golden’s gang looked pretty tight despite being the first official game the team has played together, which bodes well for Friday night.
FanDuel gives UVA a 1.5-point advantage, but I will buck that trend.
Florida 78, Virginia 75
How to Watch
Date: Friday, Nov. 10, 2023
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Radio: Gators IMG Sports Network
Live Stream: fuboTV (try it free)