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Monday, September 20, 2021
<p>Gators coach Mike White is impressed with what he's seen from Boston College already this season. Florida will play the Eagles Thursday night at 9:30 p.m.</p>

Gators coach Mike White is impressed with what he's seen from Boston College already this season. Florida will play the Eagles Thursday night at 9:30 p.m.

It's time to hold your breath and cross your fingers.

After its first three games of the season were scrapped due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing, the UF men's basketball team has its eyes set on "Bubbleville" at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, once again.

Last week, Florida was scheduled to begin its season at the Mohegan Sun before the program was shut down for nearly a week due to COVID-19 concerns. Now, ironically, it'll tip-off the 2020-21 campaign at the same location just a week later than expected.

The Gators are ready to go with UF head coach Mike White announcing on Tuesday that every player will travel to Connecticut except for junior Osayi Osifo, who is still quarantining.

"You know, I think outside of the teams in the bubble already, we're all experiencing similar situations in college basketball. This season, it is what it is. We've got to be adaptable,” White said. “We're all trying to develop these guys into becoming better leaders for life through basketball and adaptability is certainly a really important characteristic, so we have to be ready to go. Whoever's between the lines, whoever is available, and we're excited about potentially playing a game tomorrow."

The Gators will face off against undefeated Army (3-0) on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. and the following day go head-to-head with Boston College (1-2) at 9:30 p.m.

The Black Knights have won all of their games behind a solid balance on both sides of the floor. Their offense averages over 83 points per game through the first few contests, and the defense has held its opponents to just 54.3 PPG while forcing 13 turnovers per game.

According to KenPom, Army tends to push the ball up and down the floor. The team comes in at 92nd out of 351 Division I teams, which means Florida's transition defense will need to shake off the rust early to avoid giving up easy buckets to its first opponent of the season.

"Army's really impressive with, believe it or not, their discipline," White said. "How hard they play, how well they execute their connectivity. They seem to be in incredible shape with how well they change ends of the floor. They're very unique offensively. They play a style that I'm not sure we'll see again the rest of the year, so that presents major challenges, of course."

The Black Knights feature three players within their projected starting lineup that average double digits in scoring.

Forward Alex King, a six-foot-eight senior, has put up 11.7 PPG this season while being a key contributor on the boards as well with 6.3 rebounds per game during that span. Guards Josh Caldwell (12.7 PPG) and Lonnie Grayson (14 PPG) lead the team in scoring. Caldwell's a threat defensively (3.3 steals per game) while Grayson can beat you from beyond the three-point line (4 three-point baskets per game).

Despite the difference in records, Boston College still presents the biggest challenge between Florida's two foes over the next couple of days.

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The Eagles handed Rhode Island (3-1) its only loss this season and were beaten by national powerhouse Villanova (2-1) 76-67 as well as St. Johns (3-0), 97-93.

BC's two leading scorers are two physical guards in six-foot-two junior Wynston Tabbs and six-foot-three sophomore Jay Heath. Tabbs scores nearly 17 points and brings down five rebounds per game, which is second on the team to six-foot-eight senior Steffon Mitchell (9.3 per game).

Heath scores 14.5 PPG and leads the team in minutes per contest at 31.8.

White had an opportunity to watch the Eagles take the court against St. John's on TV Monday, and he came away very impressed with what he witnessed.

"Those guys are, again, a unique offense playing a lot of five-out, playing a lot of four and five guards and up tempo," he said. "Obviously it's the (game against Army) first, but (Boston College) is a team that plays very fast both offensively and defensively. They play a lot of guys, and I'm hopeful that we can match them in terms of our conditioning and our wind based on everything that we've been through the last couple weeks."

Contact Evan Lepak at elepak@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @EvanMPLepak.

Gators coach Mike White is impressed with what he's seen from Boston College already this season. Florida will play the Eagles Thursday night at 9:30 p.m.

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