- Ky McKeon
3MW’s All Conference Team:
1. Damon Lynn Goes Down
Damon Lynn, the 5’11” NJIT dynamo, started the season in the way most expected him to, averaging 20.9ppg while knocking down a silly 76 three-pointers in only 19 games. Lynn’s season (and the Highlanders’) was cut short, however, on January 21st when the guard ruptured his Achilles in a tilt with Florida Gulf Coast. Lynn was on pace to break J.J. Redick’s all-time NCAA three-point record and was a shoo-in for A-Sun First Team All-Conference. NJIT lost it’s next eight straight games, sputtering to a 3-11 league finish and ending the year in 7th place after being picked 3rd in the preseason.
2. Florida Gulf Coast Capture First Ever League Crown
Despite the Dunk City hype and two NCAA Tournament appearances, the Eagles had never won a regular season Atlantic Sun title until this year. Led by UCF transfer Brandon Goodwin, FGCU, a Division 1 team since only 2008, looks poised to once again represent the conference and serve as a dangerous 14 or 15 seed in the Dance.
3. Lipscomb and USC Upstate Shock the Conference
I’m not sure which team’s performance is more impressive / unexpected this season. Lipscomb finished the year 11-3 in A-Sun play, earning the 2-seed in the upcoming tournament. The Bisons (not a typo) were picked 6th in the A-Sun media poll (4th in the coaches poll). Lipscomb has ridden their lightning paced, gunning guard attack to their best season since 2006. USC Upstate meanwhile was unanimously picked to finish in last place in the A-Sun. Led by 7’0’’ behemoth Michael Buchanan and crafty guard Mike Cunningham, the Spartans rolled to a 7-7 league finish, earning the 4-seed in the postseason rumble.
The tournament is the first to tip-off, starting Monday, February 27th, and concluding on March 2nd. Top seeds host each round.
Best Team and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed
Florida Gulf Coast is the clear favorite to take home the conference tourney crown. The Eagles finished the year 12-2 with losses to Lipscomb and USC Upstate (both at home). Jordan Majewski, a writing favorite of the 3MW, said it best when he called FGCU a mini North Carolina. The Eagles like to attack the rim via post and penetration, using their overall size to overwhelm opposing A-Sun units. Given their #119 KenPom ranking, #91 RPI, and wins over Siena, UT Arlington, at Louisiana Tech, and at Georgia Southern, the Eagles are trending towards either a 14 or 15 seed in the Big Dance. The aforementioned Brandon Goodwin, coupled with shot-makers Christian Terrell and Zach Johnson, and big men Demetris Morant and Marc-Eddy Norelia, make the Eagles a very dangerous team in March. If I were a 3-seed or 2-seed, I’d be nervous about seeing FGCU in the First Round.
Dark Horse Team
If stud freshman Garrett Sams is healthy, North Florida is the team that could rip the title from FCGU’s talons. The Ospreys were picked to finish 2nd in the league preseason (and even earned some 1st place votes), but stumbled to an underwhelming 8-6 conference record. UNF is battle tested, having played the 28th best non-conference schedule in the country (which resulted in them beginning the year 4-12), and have the unique distinction of featuring the league’s best player, Dallas Moore, each game. Moore won his second-straight Conference Player of the Year award, averaging 23.9ppg on 48.5% shooting (40.4% from three). The Ospreys have the talent to beat any team in this league, and in fact did beat every team in the league during the regular season, save for FGCU. Their ability to pound the offensive glass and knock down perimeter jumpers makes them a sexy alternative pick to take the A-Sun auto-bid.
(1) Florida Gulf Coast defeats (8) Stetson
(4) USC Upstate defeats (5) Kennesaw State
(3) North Florida defeats (6) Jacksonville
(2) Lipscomb defeats (7) NJIT
(1) Florida Gulf Coast defeats (4) USC Upstate
(3) North Florida defeats (2) Lipscomb
(1) Florida Gulf Coast defeats (3) North Florida
Very chalky Ky! Yes, yes I know.
The Eagles are the best team in this conference, and I don’t really think it’s even close.
USC Upstate and Kennesaw State should be a good game, but the Owls will struggle against the size of the Spartans as they rely on getting to the bucket to score most of their points.
Jacksonville had it’s best season since 2010, but they matchup poorly with the Ospreys with their lack of rebounding and tendency to give up good looks from outside.
Though I do love Lipscomb’s squad this season, their rebounding and lack of size also makes them vulnerable to a rising North Florida team (NJIT has no shot without Lynn).
FGCU’s biggest challenge will come from USC Upstate, a team that beat the Eagles and took them to overtime during the regular season. If FGCU gets past the Spartans, they should roll the Ospreys in the final. If USC Upstate gets to the finals, they can beat North Florida. However, if it’s USC Upstate vs. Lipscomb, the Bisons will be representing the A-Sun in March.