BASKETBALL: 2004 schedule officially released

Match-ups with 11 teams that reached postseason play a year ago, including seven NCAA Tournament teams highlight the University of Florida's 2004-05 men's basketball schedule. Florida will take on 2004 NCAA Tournament teams Kentucky, Alabama, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Louisville and Providence in a challenging 27-game slate announced on Monday.

Florida will open the 2004-05 season against Jacksonville University in the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, the second straight year the Gators will play there after beating UCF, 59-39, at the same venue a year ago.

The Gators' home opener will be on Nov. 23 against Florida Atlantic, coached by Sidney Green, the father of Florida newcomer Taurean Green. On Nov. 27 the Gators will travel to Miami to face Providence at the Orange Bowl Classic in Florida head coach Billy Donovan's first meeting with his alma mater, a team he led to the 1987 Final Four as a player.

Following a home game with Florida A&M on Nov. 30, the Gators host the University of Miami for the first time since 1990 on Dec. 4. After a mid-week game against Stetson, Florida hosts Louisville on Dec. 11, the first appearance in Gainesville for the Cardinals since 1971, pitting Donovan against his mentor and former head coach Rick Pitino.

The Gators wrap up the non-conference schedule with home games against Georgia Southern, Eastern Kentucky and Sam Houston State before their annual tilt with Florida State on Jan. 2 in Tallahassee. The Gators match-up with Sam Houston State is a rematch of the 2003 NCAA Tournament First Round meeting between the two, won by Florida, 85-55, in Tampa.

Arkansas comes to the O'Connell Center to open Southeastern Conference play on Jan. 8. The Gators travel to Auburn and Vanderbilt before returning home on Jan. 19 for the first of three consecutive home games as Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina all come to the O'Connell Center.

The Gators' begin a brutal stretch in early February, starting with a road game at 2004 SEC regular season champion Mississippi State on Feb. 1. On Feb. 5 the Gators host Alabama, a team that made a run to the Elite Eight last season before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut. Florida's first meeting with SEC Tournament champion Kentucky will come at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Feb. 8.

The Gators remain on the road on Feb. 12 to take on Tennessee in Knoxville before returning home on Feb. 16 to face Ole Miss. After a road trip to LSU on Feb. 19, Vanderbilt comes to the O'Connell Center on Feb. 23.

The final three games of the regular season provide a tremendous challenge for Florida, as the Gators will play at South Carolina on Feb. 27 before heading to Georgia on March 2. The Gators close out the regular season at home against Kentucky on March 6.

The SEC Tournament runs from March 10-13 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Florida returns all five starters and three All-SEC players from last year's squad that went 20-11, reached the SEC Tournament final for only the fourth time in school history and won 20 games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive year.

Click here for the 2004 schedule.

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