Cal will face Florida in the Fort Myers Tip-Off Beach Division, a semifinal matchup against an opponent that has never beaten the Bears but has played in the NCAA tournament four of the past five seasons.
The Bears and Gators will play at Fort Myers on Monday, Nov. 22, with the winner facing the winner of Ohio State vs. Seton Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 24.
Game times will be announced at a later date.
Cal opens the tournament in Berkeley on Thursday, Nov. 18 against Southern Utah before trekking to Florida.
The Bears are 2-0 all-time vs. Florida, with wins at the 1986 Rainbow Classic in Hawaii and at the Great Alaska Shootout in 1988. So, this will be their first clash in the Lower 48.
This promises to be a challenging game. The Gators, in their eighth season under coach Mike White (138-85), were 15-10 last season, beating Virginia Tech in the NCAA tournament before losing to 16th-seeded Oral Roberts.
Gone from that Florida team are guard Tre Mann, who entered the NBA draft after his sophomore season and was chosen No. 18 by Oklahoma City, and three players who transferred.
But there is plenty of talent on the roster, led by Keyontae Johnson, the 2021 SEC Preseason Player of the Year. The 6-foot-5, 239-pound forward averaged 19.7 points through three games games before collapsing on the court on Dec. 12 against Florida State. He was hospitalized in critical but stable condition.
Johnson’s family said the incident had no relation to COVID-19.
Johnson didn’t play again last season but says he intends to be on the court this year. He is still awaiting medical clearance.
“I don’t know if it will be here, but I’m for sure going to play basketball again,” Johnson told the Orlando Sentinel two weeks ago. “Just taking it day by day, going to see doctors and everything. They really haven’t given me a timeline yet. Hopefully, I get it soon.”
The Gators also return 6-11 forward Colin Castleton, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds last year. Two transfers figure in the team’s rotation: forward C.J. Felder (9.7 points, 5.9 rebounds last year at Boston College) and guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr. (1,500 career points at Charleston Southern).
Florida also signed five-star freshman Kowacie Reeves, a 6-6 guard from Macon, Georgia.
Cal is set to begin its third season under coach Mark Fox, and hopes to show progress after going 9-20 last season. Bears have suffered four consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the 1970s.
Cover photo of Florida’s Keyontae Johnson by Calvin Mattheis, Knoxville News Sentinel
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo