PREVIEW: FGCU Men’s Hoops Seeks to End Non-Conference Play with a Win VS Georgia Southern (12/22/20)

FGCU (4-2) will open the nest one last time in 2020 to wrap up the non-conference season with a game versus Georgia Southern (6-2). These teams have met on 3 occasions prior to this game with Georgia Southern leading the all-time series 2-1. Most recently, these squads faced off last season in the final game of the Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Classic, where the Eagles lost 72-57 in what was a rough tournament overall. Below we will break down this battle of the birds (Eagles) matchup.

Georgia Southern Eagles

This iteration of Georgia Southern Men’s Basketball looks a lot different than last year. In many ways, they are in the same position your FGCU Eagles were in last season. GA Southern returned only 2 scholarship players who took the floor for them last year. In doing so, they lost 79% of their scoring from a season ago. This year, they have welcomed 9 newcomers to the team. The Eagles of South Georgia are sitting at 6-2 so far with losses to Davidson and Mercer and wins over USC Upstate (former ASUN) and FIU (2OT). They are coached by 1st year man, Brian Burg, who was an assistant at Texas Tech under Chris Beard. Below we will go over the potential impact players for Georgia Southern, discuss potential matchups, give starting lineup projections, and give our game predictions.

Impact Players

Elijah McCadden

McCadden has been a solid and consistent starter for this team over his career. So far, the 6’4″ / 210 lb guard has played and started 7 games. The junior is currently averaging 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. When these teams met last season, McCadden put up 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists and was a big part of their win.

Zack Bryant

Bryant is a 6’2″ / 200 pound senior guard for the Eagles. He transferred to the team from UAB last season and was deemed eligible to compete this year. So far, Bryant has shown to be the best player for GA Southern. He has played and started 5 games this year and currently holds averages of 17 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds per game. Additionally, he is scoring at an extremely efficient rate, hitting 56% of his overall shots from the floor, 36% from beyond the arc, and 89% from the charity stripe. Bryant is the kind of player that FGCU must keep in check all game.

Eric Boone

Boone joined Georgia Southern this year after a highly successful JUCO career. The 6’2″ / 190 pound guard has quickly made a role for himself, playing in all 8 games and making 7 starts. Currently, the junior is averaging 11 points, 4 rebounds, and almost 4 assists per game.

Prince Toyambi

Toyambi joined Georgia Southern as a transfer from Cincinnati, where he redshirted for 2 years. Now, the redshirt sophomore is making a name for himself. He has played and started all 8 games for the Eagles. The 6’7″ / 235 lb C/F combo is averaging 8 points and 6 rebounds in just 16 minutes a night. GA Southern seems to rotate bigs quite a bit but when Toyambi is in the game, he makes a difference.

FGCUGeorgia Southern
Luis Rolon #1Eric Boone #5
Jalen Warren #5Zack Bryant #3
Caleb Catto #2Elijah McCadden #2
Eli Abaev #14Mackenzie McFatten #11
Justus Rainwater #32Prince Toyambi #24

Matchup Notes

  • Lineups have been extremely difficult to predict this year due to the increased number of options available to Coach Fly. Still, based on how things have gone this season as well as how the Georgia Southern roster is constructed, I think FGCU will return to a 3 guard/2 big lineup, at least to begin the game. FGCU has found success with playing 4 guards and 1 big against smaller opposing teams. Georgia Southern appears to possess a similar level of size though. I see Rainwater being leaned on a bit more than in recent games as he projects to matchup well with Prince Toyambi. I also see Coach Fly simply riding the hot hand in this one. If Dakota Rivers shows he can continue to effect the game in a few different ways (inside scoring, outside shooting, and interior defense), he can absolutely take over. Abaev has been huge on the boards for the team and should continue to do that for the team as he settles in and cleans things up offensively. Based on depth, I think the Eagles of the Gulf Coast hold the advantage down low.
  • While it was against an NAIA team, I think FGCU is on to something by having Rolon and Warren on the court at the same time. The benefits of having 2 point guards on the floor are tremendous and really take away the opponent’s ability to press you. Early in the year, Coach Fly did this by having Warren and Franco Miller start the game together. This did well against the press, but the emergence of the freshman, Rolon, has changed the dynamic a bit. The benefit of depth is that both of your starting-level point guards can be on the floor at the same time (think Goodwin and Johnson). Combo guards like Franco Miller and Dom London are still there to spell either starter and contribute in big ways.
  • Another factor in this matchup is the use of Cyrus Largie. In the 3 guard/2 big lineup, those 3 guards have been 2 primary ball handlers and 1 Caleb Catto. Largie has been increasingly impressive since he first stepped on the floor. He often plays the “Catto” role but can also be used as a combo guard. Most impressive though from a matchup advantage standpoint, is his ability to play the 4 in a small lineup. Largie’s tenacity on defense helps him guard larger defenders and, in turn, gives him an speed advantage on offense.

Outlook

Overall, these teams matchup well on paper between the guards and the bigs. They have about the same amount of depth in the backcourt but I believe FGCU has the advantage in the frontcourt. To win this game and end the non-conference season on a high note, FGCU’s playmakers will have to make plays. A strong rebounding game cannot be wasted by an abundance of turnovers and a horrid shooting percentage. FGCU must continue to build on the cleaner, smarter, quicker brand of basketball that they have found success with a few times this season.

Predictions

Russell Kelly (4-2)

“Predicting how FGCU will perform on a given night has been difficult. The team knows what they have to do to beat the highest level of competition and must continue to execute that night in and night out. The key to victory here will be winning out on the in-game battles. Can they continue to win the rebounding battle? Can they limit turnovers and maybe even come out with less of them than their opponent? Can they score more points in the paint? Can they overwhelm Georgia Southern with a 3-point barrage? Time will tell, but I think FGCU’s arrow is point up and I see them giving the fans an early Christmas present.”

74-73 – FGCU

Elliott Kresse (3-3)

“My PS5 just got delivered, I don’t have time for a quote!…. For real though, this will be a close game. If FGCU can bring the same tenacity they brought against Webber early on, I think they have a good chance of staying in the game and holding on. Georgia Southern has always been a good matchup so they won’t go away easily.”

74-70 – FGCU

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