Just two days after blowing out fellow No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson at the First Four in Dayton, No. 16 FGCU faced the unenviable task of trying to become the first-ever 16-seed to beat a one seed. And for 20 minutes against No. 1 North Carolina the Eagles held their own, trailing by just one point at the intermission. But the final 20 minutes were an entirely different story, as Brice Johnson and the Tar Heels took control and won by the final score of 83-67.
Johnson was dominant on the defensive end of the floor, establishing a school NCAA tournament record with eight blocked shots while changing many other looks in the paint. The senior forward also led five Tar Heels in double figures with 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, and his increased activity served as a spark for a team that didn’t show up expecting a fight from FGCU.
UNC was much better on both ends of the floor in the second half, executing with greater efficiency on the offensive end and playing with greater passion defensively. Joel Berry II added 14 points and six rebounds, Isaiah Hicks and Justin Jackson 12 apiece and Marcus Paige ten points.
After scoring 22 points in the paint in the first half FGCU tallied just ten in the second, with the North Carolina guards doing a better job of keeping the Eagles out of the paint and a “human eraser” in Johnson on the back line to clean up any mistake. Next up for the Tar Heels will be either No. 8 USC or No. 9 Providence, and they’ll need to bring the effort shown in the second half tonight for a full 40 minutes.
FGCU competed as best they could and for 20 minutes added some intrigue to the proceedings. But the combination of North Carolina’s skill and weary legs combined to end any talk of history being made in Raleigh.
Seeding: 16, likely headed to Dayton for the First Four
Names you need to know: F Marc-Eddy Norelia (17.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg), G Christian Terrell (12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg), G Zach Johnson (11.2 ppg, 3.2 apg), G Julian DeBose (8.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Stats you need to know: FGCU entered Sunday averaging 77.0 points per game, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three. Norelia is the headliner for this group, and he’s got help in the front court from players such as Antravious Simmons, Demetris Morant and Filip Cvjeticanin. On the perimeter Terrell and Johnson, who missed all of last season with a heart ailment and was no lock to return to the court, are the top scorers with the experienced DeBose having started all 32 games he’s played in. Also of note is the fact that FGCU is one of the nation’s best at defending the three, as opponents shot just 30.9 percent from deep on the season.
Big wins, bad losses: FGCU doesn’t have a single win against a team ranked in the Top 150 of the RPI, and four of their 20 wins came against non-Division I competition. Their best wins: a season sweep of Atlantic Sun regular season champion North Florida and a home win over UMass. As for the losses, FGCU was swept by Jacksonville and also suffered conference losses to Lipscomb and Stetson.
How’d they get here?: FGCU was the four-seed in the Atlantic Sun tournament, and they opened with a win over No. 5 Kennesaw State. That set up a semifinal matchup with UNF, and the Ospreys (who are highly reliant on the three) went ice cold from deep and FGCU won by 33 on the road. And with the two and three seeds being eliminated in the quarterfinals, FGCU hosted Stetson in the title game. FGCU won 80-78 in overtime, with a Zach Johnson blocked shot in the final seconds preserving the victory.
Outlook: Given the fact that the last FGCU team to reach the NCAA tournament did so much damage, some may assume that this group is on par with the 2012-13 team that reached the Sweet 16 and earned the nickname “Dunk City.” But that team played a far tougher schedule outside of the A-Sun, even picking up a win over that season’s ACC champion (Miami). Going to Dayton would give them a shot at winning a game in the tournament, but it’s tough to expect much beyond that.
How do I know you?: As mentioned above this is FGCU’s second NCAA tournament appearance, and the first trip was an incredibly fun one. In 2013 the Eagles beat No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State in Philadelphia before falling to No. 3 Florida in the Sweet 16. As for this particular team there are two connections to top-ranked Kansas. Head coach Joe Dooley was a long-time assistant of Bill Self’s before taking the FGCU job, and DeBose joined Kansas (as did SMU’s Nic Moore) for the World University Games in South Korea last summer.
FGCU senior guard joins Kansas’ World University Games roster
DeBose, who plays for former Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, averaged 11.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game for the Eagles in 2014-15. The 6-foot-4 guard shot 43.1 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from beyond the arc last season, and his addition gives the team some additional depth on the perimeter.
“He’s a 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard who has been playing for Joe so he understands at least in theory what we are trying to do both offensively and defensively, Self told the Journal-World.
“Joe wanted us to take him all along,” Self added. “We decided to take our guys plus Nic (Moore, SMU). Then when Devonté got hurt (quad injury) we obviously needed to add somebody. He’ll be here today and be involved in everything starting tomorrow.”
With Graham and Brannen Greene (hip) out due to injury and Svi Mykhailiuk (Ukraine) unavailable, Self was in a position where he needed to add another piece on the perimeter for this trip. DeBose joins Moore, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, LeGerald Vick, Evan Manning and Tyler Self as the guards headed to South Korea.
Before heading abroad the Jayhawks will play two exhibition games against Canada, the first of which being scheduled for Tuesday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
FGCU announces addition of former VCU power forward
FGCU’s taken advantage of the transfer market in recent years, and on Friday the program announced the addition of another big man to Joe Dooley’s roster. Antravious Simmons, who played sparingly at VCU, has decided to transfer to the Atlantic Sun program. According to FGCU the Miami native will be eligible to compete at the end of the Fall 2015 semester.
“We’re excited about Antravious joining the program,” Dooley said in the release. “He’s a quality, high-character person that we want. He’ll be a great fit into our style of play.”
Simmons joins a program that will lose two front court players at the end of the 2014-15 season in Marcus Blake and Nate Hicks, with the latter being the team’s third-leading rebounder. Also of note is the fact that FGCU will also lose their second-best rebounder in wing Jamail Jones.
Simmons joins a front court that will include the likes of leading rebounder Marc-Eddy Norelia, Demetris Morant, Eric Moeller and Filip Cvjeticanin, who sitting out this season as a medical redshirt after undergoing back surgery during the offseason.
All three of FGCU’s early signees in the Class of 2015 are perimeter players, with those additions expected to help the Eagles begin life without current senior guards Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson.
Part of the fun in filling out your bracket in March is attempting to figure out which teams are most capable of pulling off an upset (or multiple upsets) in the NCAA tournament. While some teams may be relatively obvious given factors such as their play throughout the season and the matchup in front of them, others can slip under the radar. Below are ten teams to be mindful of as the 2014-15 season moves towards its most exciting month.
1. Harvard: Tommy Amaker’s Crimson have appeared in multiple preseason Top 25 rankings, and from an NCAA tournament standpoint the program has managed to win a game in each of its last two appearances. Point guard Siyani Chambers and wing Wesley Saunders are good leaders for this group, which doesn’t lack for depth in the front court. The one question for Harvard: do they have enough perimeter shooting to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament?
2. Georgia State: Ron Hunter’s is led by the perimeter tandem of R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow, and they’ll have the added motivation of last year’s Sun Belt title game loss to Louisiana. Kevin Ware adds depth on the perimeter, and experienced forwards Curtis Washington and Markus Krider return for another season in Atlanta. The Panthers will be a dangerous team should they get into the 68-team field.
3. Louisiana Tech: Michael White’s Bulldogs were one of four teams to finish tied for the Conference USA regular season title, and they reached the league’s tournament final as well (losing to Tulsa). Kenneth Smith and Raheem Appleby lead the way on the perimeter, and Michale Kyser is the anchor in the middle for a team that returns four starters.
4. FGCU: Joe Dooley’s team fell one win short of a return trip to the NCAA tournament last season, but with their experienced perimeter rotation the Eagles are the favorites to win the Atlantic Sun. Brett Comer runs the show, with preseason A-Sun POY Bernard Thompson and Jamail Jones on the wings. If their four front court transfers, including Demetris Morant, are ready to go FGCU could grab the nation’s attention for the second time in three years.
5. Green Bay: The Phoenix lose inside-out big man Alec Brown but they do return one of the best point guards in the country in senior Keifer Sykes. Brian Wardle’s team returns four starters, and in junior forward Jordan Fouse they likely have the best defender in the Horizon League. And like three of their four teams ahead of them on this list, Green Bay will have a conference tournament title game loss to use as fuel.
6. Toledo: Tod Kowalczyk’s Rockets won a share of the MAC West regular season title, only to fall in the MAC tournament title game to Western Michigan. Four starters return, led by senior guards Juice Brown and Justin Drummond, and Mississippi State transfer Dre Applewhite will be eligible at the end of the fall semester to add depth to the perimeter.
7.Iona: There aren’t many teams that are as productive offensively as the Gaels, with senior David Laury IV and juniors A.J. English and Isaiah Williams leading the way. However Iona may have the toughest path to an NCAA tournament bid of any team on this list, with the Gaels likely having to fend off rival Manhattan and Siena (which will host the conference tournament) to win the MAAC’s automatic bid.
8. UC Irvine: Russell Turner’s Anteaters were the Big West’s best defensive team last season, and that should once again be the case with forward Will Davis II and center Mamadou Ndiaye back on campus. In total UC Irvine returns four starters from last year’s Big West regular season champion squad, with guards Alex Young and Luke Nelson being the others.
9. Murray State: Steve Prohm welcomes back four starters with three of those players (led by guard Cameron Payne and forward Jarvis Williams) being double figure scorers. Add in sixth man T.J. Sapp, who averaged 13.2 ppg once he became eligible (mid-year transfer from Clemson) and the Racers have the talent and production needed to win the OVC.
10. Northern Iowa: With the assumption being that Wichita State will once again be in the NCAA tournament, the question to be asked is whether or not the Missouri Valley can earn multiple bids. And if any team can help the league accomplish that, it’s Ben Jacobson’s experienced team. Seth Tuttle leads the way for a team that returns all five starters (reserves Deon Mitchell and Nate Buss as well), and newcomers Paul Jesperson (Virginia transfer) and Wyatt Lohaus are expected to compete for minutes as well.
When UMass first put together its schedule for the 2014-15 season, their non-conference matchup with FGCU was expected to be held on December 7 at the Mullins Center on the UMass campus in Amherst. However there’s been a change, as it was announced Friday that the game will now be played in Springfield at the MassMutual Center.
Neither the date nor the time (2:00 p.m. EST) changed for the contest, which will be the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase Game.
“Any time we can take our team to other parts of the Commonwealth is a good thing for our program. We like playing in Springfield and have enjoyed our relationship with the Hall of Fame,” UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said in the release. “FGCU is a strong team with some major talent that has established itself as one of the better teams in college basketball in recent years.”
UMass and FGCU put together successful seasons in 2013-14, with the Minutemen winning 24 games and making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998 and FGCU winning a share of the Atlantic Sun regular season title and appearing in the Postseason NIT. Both teams return key contributors from last season, with FGCU returning its perimeter triumvirate of Brett Comer, Bernard Thompson and Jamail Jones and the Minutemen welcoming back the likes of guards Derrick Gordon and Trey Davis and forward Cady Lalanne.
UMass will have to account for the loss of point guard Chaz Williams, with Davis and West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds the most likely options to serve as primary ball-handler for the Minutemen.