Air Force men’s basketball has added a marquee nonconference game against a very talented Florida Gators squad.
The Falcons will play in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic on Dec. 29 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., which is the home of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Air Force will play Florida in the second game of a doubleheader. Florida State and Tulsa will play the first game. It is a one-day event.
Florida made the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last season and returns guard Kenny Boynton and a huge frontcourt with Patric Young and Erik Murphy. The Gators will be a massive challenge for the Falcons, but coach Dave Pilipovich likes the idea of taking his team into that kind of environment.
“It gives our program a chance to play against an SEC team, a team that’s been to the NCAA Tournament multiple times and won a couple national titles,” Pilipovich said. “It gives you a chance to play against the best, against teams with outstanding resources and great coaching staffs and elite players.”
The Falcons were invited to the event through an alum. Air Force graduate Michael Saks, the Orange Bowl Committee chief operating officer who previously worked in the academy’s athletic department, reached out to Air Force in May about participating in the event.
At the time the Falcons had a game in place for that date, so they declined. That game fell through, so Air Force was hopeful a spot still remained in the Orange Bowl Classic.
“We were in a scramble mode, so we called back,” Pilipovich said. “He wasn’t full, so it worked out.”
The Falcons’ nonconference schedule includes games against Florida, at Colorado on Nov. 25, and against Wichita State on Dec. 2 (which was originally scheduled for Dec. 1). All three teams were NCAA Tournament participants last season.
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