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.
It’s officially time to be concerned about No. 22 Xavier.
The Musketeers have now lost three straight games, all to the top three teams in the Big East, and currently sit at 13-5 on the year with just a single good win to their name: Clemson.
But prior to Monday’s loss to No. 7 Creighton, Xavier had lost all of their games on the road to teams that will either get a top five seed in the NCAA tournament (Villanova, Butler, Baylor) or play at altitude (Colorado). On Monday, the Musketeers not only lost 72-67 to Creighton, but they did so on a day where the Bluejays lost star point guard and all-american candidate Mo Watson to a knee injury midway through the first half and spent the majority of the game playing with star center Justin Patton saddled with fouls.
Should I mention that Creighton, who is third-nationally in three-point percentage, shot 5-for-19 from beyond the arc, or that their two best healthy guards – Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas – shot a combined 10-for-31?
All of the stars were aligned. Coming how to an afternoon game against a top ten team on a holiday after losing back-to-back games on the road, and that top ten team lost their most important player early in the first half?
This should have been where Xavier landed that first elite win.
Instead, the Musketeers are left scratching their head again.
And it begs the question: If not now, when?
The Musketeers still play Villanova and Butler at home, visit Creighton and have the Crossroads Classic at Cincinnati. There are opportunities for them to get wins that they need.
But if they cannot get a win over a short-handed Creighton team at home, who are they actually going to be?
VIDEO: No. 7 Creighton beats No. 22 Xavier, loses all-american Mo Watson to a knee injury
The Bluejays would hold on to win a thrilling, hard-fought game, 72-67, without Watson. That’s impressive, and it means that they move into a tie for first place in the Big East with Villanova, but the story of this game was Watson.
According to a reporter at the game, Watson told head coach Gregg McDermott that he “heard it pop“. Losing Watson to any significant injury would be catastrophic for the No. 8 Bluejays. Watson entered Monday averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists. He’s been in the top ten of our Player of the Year Power Rankings all season long, is a clear-cut candidate for an all-american team and is the engine for the high-powered offense that has made Creighton a Final Four contender.
The injury may be somewhat controversial as well. Two minutes before the video clip above, Watson banged knees with a Xavier defender and had to be helped off of the floor. He was tested on the sideline and allowed to return to the game, albeit with a noticeable limp.
UPDATE: Gregg McDermott told FS1 after the game that Watson’s ligaments are intact, but that they are concerned about the meniscus.
College Basketball Coaches Poll: Kansas vaults to No. 1
Kansas vaulted up to the No. 1 spot in the Coaches Poll for the first time this season, receiving 23 of the 32 first place votes.
Villanova comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.
Villanova vaulted back into the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll after falling out for a week when they lost at Creighton.
Kansas comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.
Texas landed an important piece for its future on Monday as four-star Class of 2017 point guard Matt Coleman committed to the Longhorns during a televised announcement.
A priority recruit for head coach Shaka Smart, the 6-foot-2 Coleman is regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the country, according to Rivals. A lefty floor general who can attack the basket and set up others, Coleman played for Smart this summer as the two won a gold medal together with the USA Basketball U18 team during the 2016 FIBA Americas.
Coleman is going to have to improve his perimeter shooting for the next level — he only shot 18 percent from three-point range in Nike EYBL play — but he’s the type of setup guard who should help the talented Texas perimeter get ideal shots. It’ll be intriguing to see how Smart plans to play Coleman in what could be a crowded backcourt next season but Coleman should help bring stability to the team.
With Coleman in the mix, we’ll likely see Smart use a lot of lineups with two ball handlers as we saw with Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix last season. That type of backcourt might suit Smart’s style of play a bit better than the current Texas roster this season.
Coleman is the fourth commitment for Texas in the Class of 2017. He joins three other four-star prospects in big man Jericho Sims, guard Jase Febres and forward Royce Hamm.