By: Carter Woodiel
All aboard the conference tourney hype train! March Madness may still be a few weeks away, but the tournaments before the tournament are already getting started. Today, KCOU looks at the Atlantic Sun.
Conference: Atlantic Sun
Tournament Venue: Campus sites
Tournament Schedule: Quarterfinals March 1, Semifinals March 3, Championship Sunday March 6 (6:00 CT, ESPN2)
Top Dog: North Florida
The Ospreys scored their first March Madness bid last season, and they’re favored to pull off the conference tournament title yet again. Boasting the best offense in the Atlantic Sun (they average over 85 points per game), and the conference’s leading scorer in junior guard Dallas Moore, UNF won its first seven conference games before finishing with a 10-4 record. This secured the number one seed in the Atlantic Sun tournament for the Ospreys, meaning if they make the A-Sun final, it’ll be played on their home floor.
NJIT, which became a full Division I school just ten years ago, will be playing in their first Atlantic Sun tournament this year, having joined the conference from, well, nowhere. The Highlanders were Division I basketball’s lone independent last season, playing a mishmash schedule of whatever games they could find. But it included a win on the road at then 17th-ranked Michigan, and they impressed enough to be brought into the A-Sun’s ranks. Led by junior guard Damon Lynn, who averages 18.5 points per game, and junior forward Tim Coleman, who’s averaging 13.9 points and seven boards per contest, NJIT will be motivated to make their first ever NCAA tournament.
Dark Horse: Florida Gulf Coast
Though FGCU is known to most fans from their “Dunk City” team that became the first 15 seed to make it out of the first weekend of March Madness, this year’s Eagles make their mark on the defensive end of the floor, holding opponents to an A-Sun-best 71 points per game. Marc-Eddy Norelia leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. They open their A-Sun tournament at home vs. Kennesaw State.
Pick: North Florida
The Ospreys were dominant in a 107-71 win over second-seeded NJIT on Feb. 18, solidifying their place at the top of the league. Look for their offense to run and gun all the way to an NCAA tournament bid.