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Florida may move basketball opener amid scheduling issues

Mike White

Florida head coach Mike White speaks at a news conference at NCAA college basketball media day, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida and Belmont might not open the basketball season against each other after all.

The Gators and Bruins originally agreed to play in Jacksonville on Nov. 11, but the matchup could be moved to Tampa to fill the final opening in Florida’s nonconference schedule.

The Gators have agreed to play at Amelia Arena in Tampa on Nov. 21 but have struggled to find an opponent. So moving Belmont appears to be the plan. That would mean Florida would need to find someone else to play in Jacksonville on opening night. The Gators also play Mercer on Nov. 13 in Jacksonville.

When Belmont released its nonconference schedule last week, it noted that the date against Florida had not been finalized “due to extenuating circumstances.”

Florida officials declined to say whether a schedule change was imminent.

“We originally agreed to the Nov. 11 date with Belmont officials, but they have been flexible in working with us as we complete our nonconference schedule,” team spokesman Denver Parlor said Monday.

Florida’s nonconference schedule has been complex to piece together because of an ongoing $64.5 million renovation to the O’Connell Center.

The project, which includes luxury boxes, chair-back seating throughout the lower bowl and upgraded amenities, is scheduled to be completed in time for fall commencement in early December.

The Gators play their first game in the revamped arena on Dec. 21 against Little Rock. Before that, they will play 10 nonconference games throughout the Sunshine State as well as a game against perennial powerhouse Duke in New York City (Dec. 6).

Florida begins the season with the two games in Jacksonville, then faces St. Bonaventure in Lakeland (Nov. 17), plays three games - including one against Seton Hall - in the Advocare Invitational in Orlando (Nov. 24-27), plays at North Florida (Dec. 1), travels to Florida State (Dec. 11) and faces Charlotte in Sunrise (Dec. 17).

The game in Tampa remains unsettled.