PREVIEW: FGCU Men’s Basketball Set to Open the Season VS Florida A&M – (11/25/20)

After an off-season full of uncertainty, FGCU is set to reopen the nest (in a limited capacity) to host Florida A&M (FAMU) on 11/25 at 7:00 PM. Over the last few weeks and months, we have extensively covered the roster and the situations/narratives surrounding this 2020-21 team. Now it’s time to breakdown their first opponent.

FAMU

FAMU is coming off a 12-15 season in which they were 8-0 on their home court and 10-6 in conference. They are coached by 4th year man, Robert McCollum, who has helped turn this program into a competitive member of the MEAC. Last year’s team featured 5 seniors who have been lost to graduation, along with 3 players who chose to transfer. Despite losing these individuals, the Rattlers still return 6 out of their top 9 scorers from a season ago. In many ways, last year was a stepping stone to this year, as FAMU was projected to finish 3rd in their division in preseason polling.

Players to Watch

MJ Randolph

Randolph is the unquestioned player to watch in this game. Last year, as a sophomore, he averaged 13 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. This year, the 6’4″ / 170 lb junior guard is already gaining notoriety by receiving Second Team All-MEAC preseason honors. Randolph is poised to lead the Rattlers this year season and their success could very well depend on how far he will take them.

Evins Desir

It seems like every year, there are a few teams on the schedule that possess a mammoth of a man with a nontraditional body type/size. FGCU will be faced with this phenomenon early with Evins Desir. The 6’8″ / 300 lb senior center averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds last year. He possesses a strong low post game and combines that with the patience and discipline to get open shots. Desir’s size is something that the FGCU bigs will have to figure out how to manage quickly.

DJ Jones

Jones is a redshirt Senior for the Rattlers. At 6’9″ / 200 lbs, this is a build that FGCU is much more accustomed to playing against. Last year, Jones averaged 7 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block per game. His shooting percentage was under 40% from the floor which is less than desirable out of a big, but there is no denying what Jones provides on the defensive end.

Bryce Moragne

Moragne is another interesting-sized player (think Tracy Hector). The senior stands at just 6’5″ but weighs in at 220 lbs, making him a more versatile forward. Last year, he averaged 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. Moragne is the type of player that FGCU must account for. When slept on, he can really make his presence known.

Matchups to Watch

Guards

The backcourt will be full of fun matchups to watch this game. FGCU’s leader is junior guard, Caleb Catto. The head to head matchup between Catto and Randolph will be something to look forward to. Additionally each team boasts a solid senior guard in FGCU’s Jalen Warren and FAMU’s Kamron Reaves. Admittedly, it is near impossible to tell how each team will use their players so the matchups could be different once the game finally begins.

Forwards

The big matchup here will be how FGCU’s Justus Rainwater sizes up next to FAMU’s Evins Desir. It’s rare that Rainwater’s hulking physique is put to the test, but that’s what happens when you face a 300 lb player with equal height. While Desir has the size advantage as well as a more clean post game, Rainwater has the advantage in regard to overall athleticism and leaping ability. It will be interesting to see how these styles clash down low. Another matchup here will be FGCU’s Eli Abaev vs FAMU’s DJ Jones. Both are 5th year players and stand at about the same height. However, they play much different styles. Abaev provides energy, crashes the board, and brings a strong, crafty post game to the table. Jones is a lean, athletic leaper/rebounder. Seeing how these matchups unfold will be intriguing as winning the rebounding battle is often a huge factor in the outcome of a game.

Projected Starting 5s

FGCUFAMU
#5 Jalen Warren#2 Kamron Reaves
#2 Caleb Catto#3 MJ Randolph
#4 Cyrus Largie#23 Bryce Moragne
#14 Eli Abaev#25 DJ Jones
#32 Justus Rainwater#22 Evins Desir

Outlook

It’s a new season and there are finally some familiar faces on this Florida Gulf Coast squad. FGCU seems to have the advantage in the backcourt but FAMU has tremendous size down low. The development of the Eagles’ returners and the impact of newcomer, Eli Abaev must be clear and evident in order for FGCU to start the season off on the right foot.

Game Predictions

Russell Kelly (0-0)

“It’s the first game for both of these teams and I’ll be surprised if it’s pretty. If the season goes how I think it will go, the Eagles have to win games like this, regardless. I’m thinking a cleaner, promising 2nd half gets it done for the Green and Blue.”

69-62 – FGCU

Elliott Kresse

“FGCU and FAMU both come out strong and put up a tightly contested contest. The Eagles edge them out in the end and get the narrow win.”

77-74 – FGCU

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