Orange draw Gators in inaugural Big East/SEC Challenge

Syracuse will play Florida in non conference play for the third time in four years in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the conferences announced last week.

The Big East/SEC Challenge will tip off this holiday season with nine of the nation’s preseason top 25 teams in action, as ranked by Andy Katz of ESPN.com. The Challenge will feature 13 teams from the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

No. 12 Florida will visit the Carrier Dome to take on No. 4 Syracuse on Friday, Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. The Orange topped the Gators 89-83 in the 2008 CBE Classic semifinal and won 85-73 in Tampa the following season as part of the 2009 SEC/Big East Invitational.

“We’ve made it a practice to play a difficult non-conference schedule, and this is perhaps the toughest one yet,” Gators head coach Billy Donovan said in a statement. The Gators also boast No. 3 Ohio State, No. 10 Arizona, No. 20 Texas A&M and No. 21 Florida State on their non-conference schedule.

This is welcome news for the Orange from an RPI standpoint should they get by the Gators. Syracuse has no other ranked team on its non-conference slate (to date), which is sure to draw criticism from certain ESPN personalities. The Orange do, however, have the chance to pick up several quality wins should they advance to the semifinals of the Preseason NIT in Madison Square Garden, where potential match-ups against Virginia Tech, Stanford and/or Oklahoma State await.

Other games of note from the Big East/SEC Challenge include: St. John’s at No. 2 Kentucky, Georgetown at No. 14 Alabama, No. 17 Pittsburgh at Tennessee and perhaps the best pairing of the Challenge, No. 7 Vanderbilt at No. 9 Louisville.

A complete schedule with all times and stations can be found here, courtesy of BigEast.org.

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