Florida Atlantic University (2-2) travels across the alley to Fort Myers to face FGCU (0-4) at Alico Arena. FAU lost their top four scorers from a season ago and have struggled to replace them. They have played only 2 games against D-I teams this year lost both by a large margin. The Owls lost to Miami in their first game by a score of 74-60. In their second game, they lost to Alabama 78-59. Most recently, the Owls squared up against D-II Palm Beach Atlantic and narrowly escaped with a 5 point victory (84-79). FAU has been somewhat of a Kryptonite for FGCU in years past. The Eagles are still looking for their first win of the season. Here is a look at some of the FAU players that could impact the game.
Karlis Silins is only a sophomore but is already a leader on this team. He is a bit older than your average 2nd year player. As a transfer from Ole Miss, he played only 8 games through his first 2 seasons and was subsequently granted a medical hardship waiver and allowed to keep his remaining years of eligibility. Silins has imposing size at 6’11” / 240. He is a big, smart, true center who uses his body well. Currently, he is averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds per game.
Cornelius Taylor is a grad transfer and the only senior in the backcourt (1 of 2 on the team). He joins the Owls as a transfer from D-II Lincoln Memorial. Over his 3 years there, he has averaged 14 points per game and is a 3-time all-conference selection. At 6’0″ / 180, he lacks size but remains a true threat to score any time the ball is in his hands. Taylor has played in all 4 games this year, starting 2 of them. He is fast, bouncy, and great at creating his own shot. Currently, he averages 12 points per game.
Madiaw Niang is a very promising sophomore forward. He is 6’9″ / 210 and uses his long, athletic frame to win on the boards. He is also a good shot-blocker and a sneaky 3-point shooter. He has started every game this year and is currently averaging 5 points and 8 rebounds in only 19 minutes per game. He managed to pull down 12 boards against Miami. Niang must be accounted for and neutralized or he could be a major cog in winning the rebounding battle and, thus, swaying the outcome of the game in favor of the Owls.
Maitre is a junior guard on this FAU squad. He stands at 6’3″ / 180 and has started all 4 games this year. In those games, he is averaging 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Maitre had his best showing against Alabama when he led the team with 18 points. He is not a primary scorer but can take that role if the situation calls for it.
Aleksandar Zecevic is the only other senior on the roster. He is a big forward at 6’10” / 245 and has played in all 4 games this season, starting 1 of them. Currently, he is averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds in just 17 minutes per game. Zecevic is another player that is a candidate to lead the team on any given night.
FAU is easily the youngest and least experienced team that FGCU has played thus far. Taylor is the only senior among the guards but this is his first season with the team and first season playing D-I ball. Maitre has some starting experience but is not yet a reliable leader on the team. Both individuals have had success so far in spurts, but not consistently. For the Eagles, Zach Scott and Caleb Catto have been shouldering the load, offensively. Catto has been the most consistent, all-around player. Scott has struggled to get the metaphorical lid off the basket for stretches of this young season, but still leads the team with an impressive 17 points per game. He closed out their last game against Mercer by getting hot with several key buckets and will look to use that strong finish as a platform to build further success. This is a rare case where FGCU is playing a backcourt with a similar amount of inexperience and youth.
FAU is deep at forward. Silins and Zecevic have imposing frames but have each struggled to rebound well against other D-I teams. Niang possesses good height and length and is easily the best rebounder on the team. FGCU has also struggled to win the battle on the glass this year. Justus Rainwater leads the team with 7 rebounds per game. Dakota Rivers has also come alive as of late. His rebounding has improved each game and he could be a factor in this matchup.
This is absolutely a game that FGCU can, and should, win. With such a poor and disappointing start to the season, it is increasingly important to get that first win. These teams are somewhat evenly matched. The Eagles, however, have a couple of individuals (Catto and Scott) that are already true leader in their young careers. Fans can count on each of them to lead the team even on an off night. The Owls really have no such player who has proven to stand out from the rest. If FGCU can really get this tandem going, it could be what tips the scales to their advantage.
Elliott Kresse (3-1)
“FAU has a history of providing us with big, fat Ls.” – Elliott
76-70 – FAU
Russell Kelly (1-3)
“FGCU really should win this one and I honestly expect them to. But I can’t, in good faith, pick them to win here until I finally see it happen.” – Russell
78-76 – FAU
Dawson Jordan (1-3)
“We are struggling right now as a young team and I’m not quite sure we can put two halves together, at this point.” – Dawson
62-55 – FAU
Bryan Genter (1-3)
“We typically struggle against FAU and we are not yet cohesive, as a team.” – Bryan
69-65 – FAU