The 25th annual Metro by T-Mobile Orange Bowl Basketball Classic will feature perennial NCAA Tournament teams Florida and Florida State taking on two highly regarded mid-majors in Florida Gulf Coast and Saint Louis, respectively. The Classic will take place on December 22, 2018 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. with the FSU-Saint Louis game at 2:30 p.m. and the Florida-FGCU contest at 5 p.m. Both games will be televised nationally on FS2 and statewide in Florida on Fox Sports Sun.
Ticket prices for the doubleheader begin at $20. To order tickets and for further ticket information, please call or text the Orange Bowl ticket sales office at (305) 341-4701 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the second game, the Florida Gators, who advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in head coach Mike White’s third year, finishing 21-13 overall and 11-7 in the SEC, will host the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles from the Atlantic Sun Conference. FGCU, is lead by coach Michael Fly, who will begin his inaugural season as the Eagles’ head coach after seven seasons as an assistant. The Eagles finished 23-12 overall and 12-2 in the ASUN Conference last year and earned an NIT bid as the ASUN’s regular season champion and tournament runner up. In the NIT, they fell to Oklahoma State, who defeated FSU in last year’s Metro by T-Mobile Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.
In the opener, the Florida State Seminoles, who fell just short of reaching the Final Four a year ago, will face the Saint Louis Billikens from the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Seminoles lost a close game to eventual national runner up Michigan in the Elite Eight, and finished 23-12 overall (9-9 in the ACC) under 16-year head coach Leonard Hamilton. The Billikens, whose head coach Travis Ford is in his second season with the team, finished 17-16 overall and 9-9 in the A-10 last year. Ford, who is in his 21st season as a head coach, was previously head coach at Eastern Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma State, where in 2015 he brought the Cowboys to Sunrise for the Classic, losing a two-point heartbreaker to Florida. Ironically, Hamilton is also a former Oklahoma State head coach.
The Florida Gators will be making their 20th appearance in the Classic and have a 16-3 all-time record. The Gators return their leading scorer from last year, Jalen Hudson (15.5 ppg, team high of 78 3-pointers and 23 points in last year’s Classic). He will be joined by fellow seniors KeVaughn Allen, a first-team All-SEC selection by the coaches (11.0 ppg last year) and Kevarrius Hayes, who joined Dwayne Schintzius, Joakim Noah and Al Horford as the only Gators with 60 blocks in a season.
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles will be led by a group of outstanding transfers. Graduate transfer Schadrac Casimir, was a 1,000 point scorer at Iona, including 205 made three-pointers. FGCU will also welcome Haanif Cheatham (Pembroke Pines Charter), a former All-Big East Freshman team member, who in two seasons at Marquette scored 700 points and Troy Baxter Jr., from UNLV, a former 4-star recruit.
Florida State is back to make its 10th appearance (7-2 record) in the Classic. The ‘Noles return 75% of their scoring and 76% of their rebounding from last year’s Elite Eight team. Phil Cofer, who led the team in a host of categories including games played, minutes and points per game at 12.8, en route to being named to the West Regional All-Tournament team. Right behind him in most categories was Terrance Mann (12.6 ppg, a team leading 5.4 rpg),, who shot 57% from the field a year ago and was also named to the West Regional All-Tournament team. Cofer had 22 points and Mann 20 in last year’s Classic. Other top returners include 7’4” Christ Koumadje, the tallest player in FSU history, who had 37 blocks last season and Trent Forrest, who led the team in assists (138) and steals (53).
The Saint Louis Billikens are making their first appearance in the Classic. The Billikens welcome back their two leading scorers, rebounders and assist men from last year in Javon Bess (13.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.2 apg) and Jordan Goodwin (11.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.0 apg). They will be joined a pair of graduate transfers in Tramaine Isabell Jr. (21.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.4 apg at Drexel after two years at Missouri) and Dion Wiley from Maryland.
With assistance from title sponsor Metro by T-Mobile and associate sponsors American Airlines, BB&T Center, FOX Sports Florida, Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, Miami Herald, Panera Bread, Sunshine Health, and Toyota, the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic will be the only Division I basketball played in Broward County again next season.