By: Daniel Yelovich
Favorite: North Florida
Returning the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, Dallas Moore and leading the nation in 3-point field goals and ranking 5th in scoring at 84.3 PPG last year, the Ospreys look to do more of the same this year. Losing to a superior Florida team in the first round of the NIT, North Florida will carry over a mature attitude in big games, and hopefully the tournament.
Dark Horse: NJIT
A deep team with two returning high-scoring guards in Damon Lynn (18.3 PPG) and Tim Coleman (13.7 PPG). Just recently joining the Atlantic Sun last year, the Highlanders are improving steadily every year after making a jump to Division I in 2006. Their non-conference schedule always seems to be very tough (last year- @Kentucky, @Providence), which could help them develop a solid conference record, like it did last year and set up a run at the A-Sun title.
Bold Prediction: Florida Gulf Coast
Who other than Dunk City?! Forward Marc Eddie Norelia set the program record for double-doubles last season as a junior. FGCU always rises to the challenge in big games. In the A-Sun final last year, freshman Zach Johnson came up with the game-winning block to lock in FGCU’s title. Brought to relevancy in 2013, after #15 FGCU upset #2 Georgetown in the NCAA tourney, the Eagles are just as competitive every year. Former coach Andy Enfield left after the magical season and current coach Joe Dooley has had a career coaching record of 64-39 (.621). An assistant coach of the 2007-08 Kansas Jayhawks national championship team, it’s safe to say that the man knows how to win.
Player to Watch: Dallas Moore
Yes, again, the A-Sun player of the Year and the leading scorer in the conference is returning to a confident North Florida squad. The 6-1 smooth, left handed guard from Saint Petersburg, Florida has increased his shot percentage every year by a substantial amount while taking more shots. As a sophomore, Moore shot 48.1% attempting an average of 12.5 shots a game. Improving a lot as a junior, He shot 51.6% averaging 14.6 shots a game. When looking at a player’s overall game, we must examine other parts of their game. Moore nearly doubled his assist average while decreasing his fouls and turnovers. Seeing major improvements in multiple areas is a good sign for a player’s development. It will be interesting to see if Moore will average more than 20 PPG and lead North Florida to the NCAA tournament.
In Trouble: Jacksonville Jacksonville
Losing your Senior leader/leading scorer is never going to be easy. Jacksonville lists 5 freshmen on their roster looking to fight for valuable minutes in an unknown rotation. Senior Marcel White will look to lead a team with a lot of questions. The 6-6 forward was presented with an opportunity to play significant minutes last year after a frustrating first two years. In his freshman and sophomore year, he averaged 17 Minutes a game which quickly jumped to 32 Minutes a game last year. Last year, senior leader Kori Babineaux carried the load for Jacksonville leading the team in Minutes, Points, Assists, and Field Goal %. It will be interesting to see if Marcel White can thrive with a young, unexperienced team as the leader.