MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – The 24th annual MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic will feature two of the best matchups in Classic history when four major conference teams who appeared in the post-season last year will take the court on December 16 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. Game times will be announced at a later date.
In one game, the Florida Gators, who made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight in head coach Mike White’s second year, finished 27-9 overall and 14-4 in the SEC., will host the Clemson Tigers from the ACC. Clemson, whose coach Brad Brownell is in his eighth season with the Tigers, finished 17-16 and 6-12 in the ACC last year earning an NIT bid. During the regular season, Clemson defeated NCAA Final Four team South Carolina, the team that eventually eliminated Florida.
In the other game, the Florida State Seminoles, who finished 26-9 a year ago and 12-6 in the ACC under 15-year head coach Leonard Hamilton before bowing out in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32, will face the Oklahoma State Cowboys from the Big 12 Conference. The Cowboys, whose coach Mike Boynton is in his first year, finished 20-13 a year ago and 9-9 in the conference before losing by a point to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Hamilton served as the Cowboys head coach from 1986-90 before becoming the head coach at University of Miami.
The Florida Gators will be making their 19th appearance in the Classic and have a 16-2 all-time record. The Gators return their leading scorer from a year ago, KeVaughn Allen (14.0 ppg, 37% from behind the arc). Also returning are Chris Chiozza (7.2 ppg, 3.8 apg), who hit the game-winning three-pointer in overtime to send the Gators to the Elite Eight, and Kevarrius Hayes, who joined Dwayne Schintzius, Joakim Noah and Al Horford as the only Gators with 60 or more blocked shots in a season. They will be joined by two transfers and the No. 10 ranked recruiting class in the country according to ESPN.com.
The Clemson Tigers return five of their top seven scorers from last year’s NIT Tournament team, including second-leading scorer and leading assist man Shelton Mitchell (10.8 ppg, 3.5 apg, 45% three-point). Despite not starting a game, Marquise Reed was fourth in scoring (10.0), second in assists, first in steals, shot 40% from behind the arc and 90.6% from the free throw line, second in the league. Eight of the Tigers’ 12 ACC losses were by six points or less, including three one-point losses, a two-point loss at Duke and a three-point loss in overtime at North Carolina. This is their first appearance in the Classic.
Florida State is back to make its ninth appearance (7-1 record) in the Classic. The ‘Noles boast a consensus top 20 recruiting class that will join Terance Mann, who shot 58% from the field a year ago and is the leading returning scorer (8.4 ppg), rebounder (4.5 rpg) and assist man. Other top returners include C.J. Walker, FSU’s sixth man of the year in 2016-17 and 7’4” Christ Koumadje, the tallest player in FSU history, who had four blocks in the NCAA Tournament game against FGCU.
Oklahoma State is making its second appearance in the Classic, having lost to Florida in 2015. The Cowboys return 53% of their scoring from the NCAA tournament team a year ago. They are expected to be led by Jeffrey Carroll, their leading rebounder and second leading scorer (17.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg), who was a second team All-Big 12 performer a year ago. The Cowboys will also welcome senior transfer Kendall Smith, a two time All-Big West performer from Cal State Northridge (CSUN ). Smith averaged 16.7 ppg and 4.8 apg a year ago at CSUN.
With assistance from title sponsor MetroPCS and associate sponsors American Airlines, BB&T Center, Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, Dave & Buster’s, Florida Prepaid College Board, FOX Sports Sun, Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, Panera Bread, Sunshine Health, The Miami Herald and Toyota, the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic will be the only Division I basketball played in Broward County again next season.