Atlantic Sun Conference Preview: Can FGCU reach their third straight NCAA tournament?

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Atlantic Sun conference.

The ASUN features a potentially dangerous Cinderella that America is already familiar with and a few more teams that could be tough for any opponent during the 2017-18 season.

League regular-season favorite Florida Gulf Coast returns three really good perimeter scorers in Brandon Goodwin, Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell from an NCAA tournament team that only lost by six points to No. 3 seed Florida State. While the backcourt headlines Dunk City, the Eagles are also talented in the frontcourt with Michigan transfer Ricky Doyle expected to help on the interior along with returners like Antravious Simmons.

With back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, and experienced players talented enough to take over a game, don’t be surprised to see another Florida Gulf Coast upset this March if they stay healthy.

Also not to be taken lightly is Lipscomb.  Coming off of a 20-win season and featuring a prolific offense with five returning starters the Bison feature junior guard Garrison Mathews as he averaged over 20 points per game and is a serious Player of the Year threat in the A-Sun. Senior guard Nathan Moran and junior forward Rob Marberry are also returning double-figure scorers for Lipscomb as last year’s team averaged 85 points per game.

Prolific scoring guard Dallas Moore is gone from North Florida but the Ospreys return three starters as the program has gone to back-to-back conference tourney title games. Sophomore guard Garrett Sams and sophomore forward Wajid Aminu will be expected to score more after solid freshmen seasons.

Stetson returns three starters, including productive senior guard Divine Myles, but the Hatters need more help from its bench. USC Upstate is coming off of a 17-win season as senior guard Mike Cunningham and junior forward Malik Moore are both all-league candidates. Kennesaw State has two starters back and a promising young core as senior guard Nick Masterson is one of the league’s better players.

Replacing seven seniors and four starters will be tough for Jacksonville, as they’re coming off a .500 season and CollegeInsider.com tournament appearance. NJIT didn’t look good without senior guard Damon Lynn down the stretch but sophomore forward Anthony Tarke looks promising.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON ASUN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brandon Goodwin, Florida Gulf Coast

The league’s Newcomer of the Year and Conference Tournament MVP, the 6-foot-2 Goodwin returns for his senior season after a strong initial campaign for Florida Gulf Coast. Surrounded by a plethora of big men and two other talented perimeter options in Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell, Goodwin has a chance to put up numbers that are even better than last season when he averaged 18.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ASUN TEAM:

  • Garrison Mathews, Lipscomb: A unanimous first-team all-league selection last season, the 6-foot-5 junior put up 20.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
  • Mike Cunningham, USC Upstate: A solid sophomore campaign saw the 6-foot-1 Cunningham put up 13.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range.
  • Divine Myles, Stetson: The senior guard puts up numbers across the board as he averaged 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as a junior.
  • Christian Terrell, Florida Gulf Coast: More efficient of Dunk City’s two other double-figure scoring guards, the 6-foot-5 senior has shot 35 percent from three-point range the past two seasons.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @ASunSports

PREDICTED FINISH

  1. Florida Gulf Coast
  2. Lipscomb
  3. North Florida
  4. Stetson
  5. USC Upstate
  6. Kennesaw State
  7. Jacksonville
  8. NJIT