After last season’s surprising Sweet 16 run from Florida Gulf Coast, the Eagles — and the rest of the Atlantic Sun — will be one to watch as we get closer to the NCAA Tournament. While Dunk City returns key pieces in Bernard Thompson, Brett Comer and Chase Fieler, Mercer and USC Upstate are talented enough to compete with the Eagles for the A-Sun tournament title and the automatic tournament bid. Florida Gulf Coast tied Mercer atop the league standings in the regular season and the two teams met for the conference tournament title last season. Is Dunk City on another collision course with Mercer in the title game?
Although the Eagles tied Mercer atop the Atlantic Sun at 14-4, Florida Gulf Coast holds a huge advantage in the tournament by having home-court advantage. The Eagles have lost one game at home all season and it came December 1st against non-conference Iona. Can Dunk City make another magical run?
And if they lose?: Mercer
The Bears split the season series with Florida Gulf Coast and have one of the league’s best players in senior point guard Langston Hall. In Atlantic Sun play, Mercer led the league in field goal percentage offense and defense as well as three-point percentage offense and defense and they tied Florida Gulf Coast for the league’s best mark in defensive rebounding percentage. Mercer’s talent and balance will give them a legitimate chance.
Lipscomb: Although they’re a five seed, Lipscomb has four straight wins, including a 21-point drubbing of Florida Gulf Coast at home on February 27th.
USC Upstate: The three seed has the trio of Torrey Craig, Ty Greene and Renardo Glenn and they are as talented a trio as there is in the Atlantic Sun.
Torrey Craig, USC Upstate: The conference’s leading scorer is a major offensive threat and also a top-five rebounder.
Langston Hall, Mercer: Hall is having a fine senior season as he leads Mercer in points and is also the A-Sun leader in assists.
Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles’ floor leader is second on the team in scoring and second in the conference — behind Hall — in assists. And don’t forget the lobs that drive Dunk City.
Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.
A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.
On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.
“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”
One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery
The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.
Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.
“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”
Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.
Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.
Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”
The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.
The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.
Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.
DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.
Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.
TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.
“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”
Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.
Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.