In an early sign that — hopefully — things are beginning to return to normal in college sports, Cal announced Wednesday it will play at the Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tip-Off event during Thanksgiving week next season.
The Bears will be joined in the four-team tournament by Ohio State, Florida and Seton Hall. Game dates, matchups, game times and TV information will be announced later.
The tournament will be held at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena on the campus of Florida SouthWestern State College.
It’s encouraging news for the Bears, who played just seven non-conference games last season because of COVID-19 cancellations. Cal did not travel beyond the West Coast for any of its pre-Pac-12 games in 2020-21, and was forced to cancel a scheduled game at Boston College.
The competition at Fort Myers figures to be stiff.
Ohio State (21-10) finished No. 7 in the final AP Top-25 poll this season, but lost 75-72 to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The game should be a reunion with former Cal standout Justice Sueing, who transferred to Ohio State two years ago and started every game as a junior this season, averaging 10.7 points and 5.5 rebounds.
Cal is 2-4 all-time vs. the Buckeyes, having dropped the past three meetings, starting with a 75-55 loss in the 1960 NCAA championship game at the Cow Palace. Fifteenth-ranked Ohio State beat the No. 13 Bears 76-70 at Madison Square Garden in the teams’ most recent matchup back in November 2009.
Florida (15-10) also advanced to the NCAA tournament this season, beating Virginia Tech 75-70 in the first round before losing to Oral Roberts.
Gators’ sophomore guard Tre Mann, who led the team with a 16.0 scoring average, has declared for the NBA draft. Two other players — three-year starter Noah Locke and sophomore point guard Ques Glover — have entered the transfer portal.
Cal is 2-0 vs. Florida, riding 17 points and 15 rebounds from Leonard Taylor to a 73-58 upset of the 15th-ranked Gators in their most recent matchup in the 1988-89 season opener at the Great Alaska Shootout.
Seton Hall (14-13) lost to Georgetown in the second round of the Big East tournament. The Pirates were led by Big East Player of the Year Sandro Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 senior forward, who averaged 17.5 points and 7.6 rebounds this season and is not expected to return.
The Bears and Seton Hall are 1-1 all-time, with the Pirates winning 60-57 in Hawaii in December 2016, despite 22 points from Jabari Bird.
Coach Mark Fox expects most of the roster from the Bears’ 9-20 squad to return next season. Seniors Grant Anticevich and Makale Forman already has announced they will take advantage of an NCAA eligibility waiver that allows them to replay their senior seasons.
Cal still awaits word on that issue from their third senior, guard Ryan Betley.
The Bears also have signed three high school prospects, meaning they could have as many as 16 scholarship players on their roster.
Cal has not released any information on the rest of its 2021-22 non-conference basketball schedule.
Cover image of Kuany Kuany courtesy of Cal Athletics
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo