FGCU takes on North Dakota to start their 3-game slate on Friday 11/29. North Dakota enters the tournament with a 2-4 record. They have struggled against D-I competition (0-4) with losses to Gonzaga, Valparaiso, Milwaukee, and Minnesota. The Eagles hold a 1-1 record against the Fighting Hawks. The teams first squared off back in 2004 in a game that North Dakota won. More recently, in 2015, FGCU came away with the win. The Fighting Hawks compete in the Summit League Conference. Despite their struggles, North Dakota has played some good teams and many of their players have shined. Here is a look at which players to watch for.
Stewart is one of three seniors on the team. He stands at 6’3″ / 210 lbs and has pretty good size for a guard. He has started all 6 games this year for the Fighting Hawks. Currently, he averages 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Stewart is a guy that can do it all. He can run the offense, shoot, rebound, pass, and finish at the rim.
Rebraca is only a sophomore but is, in many ways, the leader on this team. He has started all 6 games this season, averaging a team high 15 points. He is an athletic force when scoring in the low post. At 6’9″ / 220 lbs, Rebraca excels at tracking rebounds and boxing out his opponents. He currently averages 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.
Allen-Eikens is a redshirt freshman who has greatly impressed so far this year. He is a 6’6″ / 210 lbs guard, who has started all 6 games and is currently averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds. Allen-Eikens is a big, athletic, and versatile guard. He has the imposing abilities of a forward, but is skilled enough, as a ball handler, to drive to the basket and finish on his own.
Walter is one of the other seniors on this team and has, accordingly, made all 6 starts this season. He is a 6’9″ / 205 lb forward and possesses a solid and refined repertoire of low post moves. Currently, he is averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds.
Stewart and Allen-Eikens make a formidable duo in the backcourt, bringing size, speed, youth, and experience to the table. Billy Brown is the last senior on this roster and the 3rd wheel in this tricycle of guards. His numbers are very down this season, compared to his junior year. However, he is another experienced and smart body that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. FGCU may have the advantage here with Zach Scott and Caleb Catto, coupled with the continued emergence of Jalen Warren and Sam Gagliardi. The Eagle guards have started to pick up steam and have a chance to start the tournament off red hot.
The Fighting Hawks have 2 good forwards in Rebraca and Walter. These players, again, possess size, youth, and experience. Outside of them, depth is somewhat lacking. FGCU has similar issues with depth but possesses more uniquely talented individual players. Justus Rainwater has put together several solid rebounding performances. Dakota Rivers has been improving before our eyes. These players will look to continue their improvement against North Dakota.
This matchup is reminiscent of FGCU’s recent game against FAU. The Owls were yet to win against a D-I team, and the Eagles had recently been shell-shocked by a strong D-I team. That time, the squad was able to overcome self-inflicted wounds and win in overtime. Since that game, this team has shown improvement and will look to start the tournament off on the right foot with a win.
Campbell comes to Alico with a 4-1 record. While they have not played a big name program, they are 3-1 against D-I opponents. Most recently, the Fighting Camels beat Jacksonville (ASUN) 62-57. Interestingly, Campbell was a member of the ASUN conference from 1994 – 2011 before leaving for the Big South Conference. The Eagles have done battle with the Fighting Camels 6 times from 2008-2011. FGCU is 4-2 in those games. Here are some of the players that could make an impact in their 7th meeting.
Nelson is a 6’3″ / 185 lb junior guard. He has started each of their first 5 games, averaging 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Nelson is fast and ferocious driving to the hoop but does struggle as an outside shooter (1-6 from deep this season).
Gensler is 6’4″ / 205 lb guard. He is one of three seniors on the team and presents with loads of starting experience. This season, he has started all 5 games and is averaging 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Gensler is a great shooter and a sneaky good finisher at the rim.
Carralero is a 6’8″ / 210 lb freshman that has made an impact early in his collegiate career. Coming off bench in each of their games, he is averaging 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Carralero already has a creative set of moves when finishing at the rim. He also has very good handles for a person of his size.
Cedric Henderson Jr
Henderson Jr is 6’6″ / 190 lb guard/forward combo. As a sophomore, he has started all 5 games and currently averages 10 points and 4 rebounds. His specific size and versatility puts him in favorable matchups that lead to good shots. Currently, he is shooting at an insanely high percentage (69% from the field and 64% from 3).
The backcourt of the fighting camels features quite a bit of experience. Nelson and Gensler are the leaders, but Trey Spencer and Jordan Whitfield add their talents to give this team a strong group of guards. Spencer is a senior who is averaging 6 points on the season. Whitfield is a junior and adds another 7 points per game. FGCU’s Scott and Catto lack the same experience as their opponents. However, they have consistently been able to compensate for their youth by being real leaders on this team. The recent ascension of Warren and Gagliardi could prove to be an integral factor in the Eagles’ ability to win this one.
For the most part, this Campbell squad plays fairly small, with guard/forward combos, like Henderson Jr, playing bigger positions. Carralero comes off the bench and has provided good minutes and efficiency thus far. Milos Stajcic is their biggest body down low at 6’10” / 240 lbs. He has started every game for them but only plays about 11 minutes. FGCU has fared well against taller bigs this season. They also have the athleticism and body types to keep up with Campbell’s versatile players.
This may prove to be a tougher one for the Eagles. These teams are somewhat evenly matched and any advantage for either team could tip the scales in that direction. Campbell has not yet played any top D-I programs and FGCU has played several teams so far that could make some noise in March. This could be a big factor in the outcome of this game.
Finally, Georgia Southern brings a 3-2 record to the tournament. They have played one Power 5 team so far, losing to Auburn 83-74. They lost to North Florida (ASUN) 80-77 but won against Mercer (98-88), whom FGCU lost to earlier this season. Georgia Southern is a member of the Sun Belt Conference, but has squared up with FGCU twice in their history. The teams are 1-1 against each other, both games occurring in 2016.
McCadden is a 6’4″ / 190 lb sophomore guard. He has started all 5 games this season, and is currently averaging 16 points and 5 rebounds. He is also a very efficient scorer as he shoots 52% from the field and 48% from deep.
Crawley is one of six seniors on their roster. He is a 6’7″ / 210 lb forward. He has started every game this year, averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Crawley is a fast, athletic, and violent finisher at the rim.
Smith has seen a lot of success in his collegiate career. Currently a redshirt senior, he is a former All-Sun Belt Conference, first team player. At 6’4″ / 210 lbs, he is a big and physical guard, averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds per game.
Jackson is a 6’4″ / 180 lb junior guard and leader on this team. He has made 5 starts this season, averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists in those games. Jackson is skilled at creating his own shot and getting points off the dribble.
Wishart is a 6’2″ / 180 lb guard. As a sophomore, he has started to find his role on the team. Wishart has started all 5 games and is proving to be a pure shooter. He is averaging 10 points per game and shooting 44% from the floor and 38% from 3.
Carter is a 6’8″ / 215 lb redshirt senior. He missed the first 3 games of their season, but has started off hot in the 2 games he has played. He is averaging 12 points and 4 rebounds per contest. Against Mercer, he exploded for 19 points. Carter is an athletic, lean forward who is a threat to take over the game.
McCadden, Smith, Jackson, and Wishart present as a solid group of guards for Georgia Southern. Each of them bring their own set of skills that FGCU must account for. The Eagles of Fort Myers lack the same experience here as their Georgia counterparts. Scott, Catto, Warren, and Gagliardi will have their hands full trying to match or exceed the opponents efficiency.
Georgia Southern lacks depth and production from their forwards. Crawley provides scoring down low, but there isn’t much consistency after that. Carter continues to work his way back into rotation. Due to injury and youth, FGCU also lacks depth here. Rainwater is the consistent force while Rivers continues to establish and develop himself.
Georgia Southern looks to be one of the better teams in this tournament, but they are not without flaws. This could be a tough one for FGCU, but it is still a winnable game. If FGCU can string together some early tournament wins, they could use that momentum in their favor against Georgia Southern.
|Elliott Kresse |
|Russell Kelly (3-4)||Dawson Jordan (3-4)||Bryan Genter|
|“A 3-game homestand helps FGCU. But we are still rough around the edges and haven’t pieced together two good halves. I say the Eagles go 1-2 in the tourney with losses to Campbell and Georgia Southern.” – Elliott||“It would be great for FGCU to sweep this 3 game series, but I expect them to win at least 2. Georgia Southern presents as the biggest obstacle.” – Russell||“Momentum is in our favor right now and I think we can rattle off 2 wins in a row. We could potentially get the win over a tougher Georgia Southern team too.” – Dawson||“FGCU is going to build off of 2 straight home victories and keep it going for 2 more against North Dakota and Campbell. The streak will come to an end against a solid GA Southern team.” – Bryan|