By: Anthony Del Fiacco, KCOU Sports
The Atlantic Sun conference tournament kicks off tonight at 7:00 pm across various campus sites. Being one of the weaker conferences in Division I, you rarely, if ever, see news from the eight-member league reach the public spotlight. However, anyone who fondly remembers the Flordia Gulf Coast’s unprecedented run to the 2013 Sweet 16 knows every now and then the A-Sun has a trick up its sleeve. Now, I’m far from an expert in all matters under the Atlantic Sun. I’m far from a college hoops expert, period. But as the proud owner of a “Dunk City” t-shirt, courtesy of a friend attending FGCU, I felt more qualified as anyone in the KCOU sports department to type out this conference championship preview.
(All games will be played at the higher seed’s home court.)
#1 North Florida vs. #8 Stetson
As the A-Sun regular season champs, having earned an impressive 12-2 conference record, the Ospreys of UNF are your tournament favorites. They’re an offensive power, averaging 76.1 ppg and shooting 47.2% from the field. They’re only projected to be a 16-seed according to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, but chances are they won’t face any road bumps in this tourney until later rounds.
#2 Florida Gulf Coast vs. #7 Jacksonville
And here are those aforementioned FGCU Eagles now. Seniors Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson are all that remain of the high-flying 2013 “Dunk City” squad and are looking for one last dance. They’re excellent around the glass, ranking 23rd in the nation in offensive rpg rebounds and 32nd in defensive rpg. UNF may have handed them two double-digit losses this season, but should the Ospreys get their wings clipped on the way to the final, the Eagles are the best bet.
#3 USC Upstate vs. #6 Kennesaw State
Fun fact #1: Upstate boasts the conference player of the year in senior Ty Greene. Greene, who led the A-Sun in scoring, and the Spartans handed UNF both of its losses in conference play. So if they can get past a possible semifinal date with FGCU, there’s no bigger threat to the tournament’s favorite.
Fun fact #2: All I know about Kennesaw State is that it’s located in Georgia, and I only know because I was in Georgia for the SEC football championship just last December. Ok, maybe this fact isn’t all that fun. Let’s move on.
#4 Northern Kentucky vs. #5 Lipscomb
This is a match between two schools with awesome mascots (the Norse and the Bison, respectively.) That’s it, that’s almost all I know about these two. They split the season series in two blowouts and hold identical 13-16 records. Lipscomb may have played Mizzou close in the first half of their Jan. 3 meeting, but given this historically bad season for the Tigers I don’t know how much I can gauge out of Lipscomb from that one performance. I’ll just flip the coin here.
Semifinals and Championship
Given none of these later round matchups are set in stone, I’m going to eschew the analysis for hypothetical. Seems like a waste of good font. After all, college basketball in March is sheer insanity: Stetson could knock off UNF tonight and I wouldn’t give it much thought. Anyway, here are my remaining picks:
North Florida over Lipscomb
Florida Gulf Coast over USC Upstate
Florida Gulf Coast over North Florida