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UNF Announces Grueling 2011-12 Hoops Schedule

The University of North Florida, last year’s Cinderella team in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, faces a grueling basketball schedule in 2011-12.

In announcing its schedule last week, UNF opens the season with demanding early contests against three SEC powers, including the University of Florida, which will host the Ospreys in Gainesville on November 17.

UNF, coming off a 15-19 season — 10-10 in the Atlantic Sun Conference — opens the 2011-12 campaign with a game against Alabama, runner-up in last year’s NIT championship game, in Tuscaloosa on November 11. They will also travel to Auburn on December 17.

The young Ospreys, who faced five nationally-ranked teams last year, including fourth-ranked Pitt in the second game of the season — a game they lost in Pittsburgh 95-49 — will also play road games at Ohio State, Miami, Kansas State and Virginia Tech.

UNF will play fourteen home games, beginning with a November 14 non-conference encounter against Savannah State.

In all, the Ospreys will go up against no fewer than eleven teams that participated in postseason play last year, including cross-town rival Jacksonville University, which was narrowly eliminated by Conference USA’s Southern Methodist University in the second round of the College Insider Tournament (CIT), losing to the Mustangs in Dallas on a controversial call in the final second of the game.

Four of UNF’s opponents appeared in the Big Dance last season, including Ohio State, Florida, Kansas State and Belmont, the latter of which clobbered the Ospreys in the A-Sun championship game. Belmont won thirty games last year, including 21 of its last 22 games, before falling to the Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

UNF will host the three-time defending A-Sun tournament champion on January 2 before traveling to Nashville later in the month for their second meeting.

Four other schools on UNF’s 2011-12 schedule participated in the 32-team NIT, including Virginia Tech, a team loaded with talent and widely believed to have been snubbed by the NCAA’s selection committee.

UNF, which dramatically upended Jacksonville 68-64 in the quarterfinals of last year’s exciting A-Sun Tournament, opens conference play against Cliff Warren’s Dolphins at the UNF Arena on December 3.

JU, which is coming off its second consecutive 20-win season, narrowly defeated the feisty Ospreys twice during the regular season, barely escaping with a 63-62 overtime win at the UNF Arena in late January and winning a 71-69 nail-biter at Veterans Memorial Arena two weeks later.

UNF will also play home-and-away games against conference rival East Tennessee State, which made a deep run in the College Insider Tournament last March before falling to the high-powered Iona Gaels in the semifinals. ETSU, which finished the season at 24-12, defeated UNF twice during the regular season, but fell to the upset-minded Ospreys 59-55 in the semifinals of the A-Sun Tournament in Macon, Georgia.

UNF will host ETSU on January 16 and travel to Johnson City, Tennessee, for their second match-up on February 11.

“We are extremely excited about the schedule we have put together for this season,” UNF coach Matthew Driscoll told the Times-Union. “We will be challenged early and often by some very talented teams with the hope that it prepares us for what I feel like may be the most competitive mid-major league in America.”

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