PREVIEW: FGCU Men’s Hoops Begins their Delayed Conference Season with Back-to-Back Games VS Bellarmine

Riding the high of a strong non-conference showing the Eagles (5-2, 0-0) were set to begin ASUN play on January 1st and 2nd versus North Alabama (UNA). Unfortunately, after the brief holiday break, the program was forced to shut down for a 2 week period due to a positive, tier 1 COVID-19 test. This forced the opening weekend versus UNA to be postponed as well as games against Liberty that were previously scheduled for the 8th and 9th of January. During the shutdown, players were able to participate in individual workouts and conditioning outside, but no practices, lifts, or in-person team activities could be held. On Monday, January 11th, FGCU was able to resume team activities in anticipation of their back-to-back home games against ASUN newcomer, Bellarmine on Friday and Saturday (1/15-16). Below we will break down Bellarmine, look at their impact players, discuss matchups, and give our outlook and predictions for the games.

Bellarmine Knights

The Knights (3-5, 0-2) will be squaring up with the Eagles and visiting Alico Arena for the first time. As a first-time D-I team, they have had a tough non-conference season. Additionally, they had their own COVID troubles to begin the year, which delayed the start of their season for a couple of weeks. Since the delay, Bellarmine has had notable games (losses) against Duke and Notre Dame. More recently, they welcomed Lipscomb to their home court and suffered back-to-back losses to the Bisons. The Knights are extremely young and feature only 2 seniors and a few juniors on their squad. They are led by long-time coach Scott Davenport who has a 364-109 (77%) win-loss record as their coach (prior to this season). Below we will go over potential impact players for the Knights.

Impact Players

Pedro Bradshaw

Bradshaw is a towering guard for the Knights at 6’7″ /185. This season, the junior has really grown into his role as a leader on the team. He has started all 8 of their games, averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. Additionally, Bradshaw has shot a scorching hot 53% from the floor AND from beyond the arc. In 2 games against Lipscomb, he averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Dylan Penn

Penn is another standout junior for Bellarmine. At 6’3″ / 190, he is much more traditionally sized. Through 8 games (7 starts), he is averaging 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Penn also shoots with extreme efficiency at 47% from the floor. He impressed with 16 points against Notre Dame and averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds in 2 games versus Lipscomb.

CJ Fleming

Fleming is a main contributing senior on this squad. Through 5 games (all starts), he is averaging 10 points and 3 assists. At 6’0″ / 180 pounds, Flemming plays an extremely clean and efficient brand of basketball for the Knights. Currently he is shooting 44% from the floor, 48% from deep, and 88% from the foul line. Additionally, he has committed only 2 turnovers all season.

Ethan Claycomb

Claycomb is the other senior on the roster and at 6’7″ / 205, he is a leading forward for the team. Through 8 starts this year, he is averaging 10 points, 4 rebounds. And 3 assists. Claycomb can also shoot fairly well for a big. Currently he does so at 41% from the floor and 32% from 3. Beyond that, he is nearly unstoppable at the foul line as he has made 21-22 (96%) of his free throws.

Sam DeVault

DeVault is a promising sophomore for the Knights. At 6’10” / 220, he surprises you with offensive ability. Through 8 games, he is averaging 9 points and 2 rebounds. He is also shooting at a 63% clip from the floor and an impressive 47% from downtown. Devault’s impact is definitely more geared toward offense as evidenced by his efficient production there, in contrast with smaller rebounding numbers and 0 blocks so far this season.

Potential Starting 5

FGCUBellarmine
Luis Rolon #1CJ Fleming #25
Jalen Warren #5Dylan Penn #13
Caleb Catto #2Pedro Bradshaw #32
Cyrus Largie #4Ethan Claycomb #0
Eli Abaev #14Nick Thelen #30

Matchup Notes

  • Among their traditional starters, the Knights have an interesting amount of height. While only 1 significant contributor stands above 6’7″, their starting 5 typically features 3 players listed at 6’7″.
  • FGCU has found success playing a smaller brand of basketball, featuring 4 guards and a rotating big. It will be interesting to see how this potentially alters the lineups that Bellarmine will feature. On the other hand, Coach Fly could choose to play bigger with Dakota Rivers or Zach Anderson at the 4.
  • Rolón, Warren, Catto, Miller, London, and Largie have started to really come into their own as a strong backcourt rotation for FGCU. However, Bellarmine possesses a lot of shooting prowess and a bit of size as well. Coming off of a 2-week shutdown, the Eagles guards could have a tough time settling back into a groove.

Outlook

In more normal circumstances, FGCU would be the clear favorites here against a D-I newcomer. But any momentum from their strong non-conference showing is now gone after a COVID-induced, 2 week shutdown. These Eagles are obviously a talented bunch and they have proven to be gritty and motivated to win and improve. Their talent exceeds that of their opponent but they will have to dig deep and inspire each other to find their groove again in these first ASUN games.

Predictions

Russell Kelly (5-2)

“Had it not been for the shutdown, I would be picking FGCU to sweep this matchup, without much thought. However, current circumstances will make this matchup more difficult for the Eagles. My brain says that it’s reasonable for them to come out flat and drop a game that they should win. My heart says that they can overcome such struggles, should they occur. At the end of the day, if this team wants to be special and keep proving the skeptics wrong, they have to win in spite of unfortunate circumstances like these.”

Game 1: 66-63 – FGCU

Game 2: 72-60 – FGCU

Elliott Kresse (4-3)

“These games will be a toss-up in my opinion. FGCU’s flow as a team has been disrupted by the 2-week shutdown. Chemistry could be an issue for them. At the same time, Bellarmine is new to the league, which gives the Eagles a leg up, in that respect. With all things considered, I say FGCU splits the series.”

Game 1: 74-70 – Bellarmine

Game 2: 78-68 – FGCU

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