College Basketball Conference Tournament season is here! March Madness has begun and were still in the final days of February.
It’s crazy that the regular season is actually already over for some conferences, but here we are.
The Atlantic Sun has the honor of officially kicking off postseason play tonight so why not run through a quick preview for the upcoming tournament.
|1||Florida Gulf Coast||12–2|
|4||NJIT||7–7||1–1 vs. UNF, 0–2 vs. FGCU, 1–1 vs. LU, 1–1 vs. JU|
|5||North Florida||7–7||1–1 vs. NJIT, 0–2 vs. FGCU, 1–1 vs. LU, 0–2 vs. JU|
Florida Gulf Coast is the clear favorite coming into tournament play. Led by head coach, Joe Dooley, the Eagles have represented the conference in NCAA tournament play for the past two seasons. Florida Gulf Coast features two players who were on the A-Sun All-First conference team. Brandon Goodwin and Zach Johnson and are one of the better back courts in mid – major college basketball and both can put points on the board in a hurry. Brandon Goodwin is on a big time hot streak to end his season. Over the past five games, the senior has averaged 23.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals in 35.8 minutes of action. The A – Sun tournament is played at the higher seeds campus so the path to the NCAA’s goes through FGCU.
Team who can make noise:
Lipscomb – The Bison won’t be an easy out for FGCU. Led by 5th year coach, Casey Alexander, Lipscomb is coming off consecutive 20-win seasons and second place finishes in the conference. The Bison also feature two players on the First-Team all conference team led by Garrison Matthews and and Rob Marberry. The duo combined for 37.4 points per game.
Kennesaw State – It’s hard to think a team that’s 10-19 overall (6-8 conference play) has any shot but the Owls do have a shot thanks to Nick Masterson and their win over FGCU just 11 days prior. Masterson is also riding a hot streak at the right time of the season. The senior guard has avergaed 23.8 points per game to close out his final five games including a 27 point outing against FGCU. Head coach Al Skinner is a seasoned veteran with nine NCAA tournament appearances and 420 career wins under his belt. Experience may matter at the end of a close game.
Other players to watch:
Anthony Tarke – NJIT – The highlanders best player and the final member of the First-Team all conference. Tarke is a do it all forward averaging 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists on the year.
Devin Harris – Jacksonville – A former East Tennessee State transfer, Harris put a season in which he scored 12.3 points, grabbed 7.4 rebounds and dished out 5.3 assists on a per game basis. Harris will likely be matched up with Nick Masterson in tonight’s first round match-up.
Noah Horchler – North Florida – He may be the future of the North Florida basketball program. The 6’8 forward scored 11.7 points, grabbed 8.7 rebounds and blocked 1.6 shots a night. He also has touch on an outside shot drilling 34.9% from three on the season. An efficient player inside and out. Horchler will be a big factor for North Florida in the tournament.
(1) Florida Gulf Coast over (8) USC Upstate
(5) North Florida over (4) NJIT
(3) Jacksonville over (6) Kennesaw State
(2) Lipscomb over (7) Stetson
(1) Florida Gulf Coast over (5) North Florida
(2) Lipscomb over (3) Jacksonville
(1) Florida Gulf Coast over (2) Lipscomb
The two best teams in the conference all season long will meet up in the conference championship game. Joe Dooley will lead FGCU to the NCAA tournament for the third-consecutive season. With plenty of A – Sun star power on the court, it’ll be Christian Terrell who will be the X – factor in the championship game that pushes the Eagles ahead.