It’s March 1st and the proverbial madness of college basketball is about to ensue. After a strong close to the regular season (winning 7 of last 8), FGCU (20-10, 10-6) is set to begin post-season play. With the top 2 seeds of the ASUN-East and West getting a 1st-round bye, the Eagles (3rd-E) have a favorable opening-round bout against North Alabama (6th-W). Below we will break down the matchup.
North Alabama (UNA)
The Lions have had a rough season (9-20) and and conference play was even worse (2-14). Currently, they have lost their last 8 games. Within that is a 32 point loss to FGCU. Despite the poor record, UNA has good talent and quality experience within their roster. Leading their team, though, is an impressive freshman named Daniel Ortiz. The 6’0″ / 180 lb guard started out coming off the bench for the Lions, but has since earned starts over their last 15 games. At this point, he is averaging about 14 points and 3 rebounds per contest. CJ Brimm and Jamari Blackmon are familiar faces and they round out the top contributors for UNA. Standing at 5’9″, Brimm plays a lot of PG for them and is averaging approximately 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Against FGCU, earlier this season, he was in foul trouble and held to just 6 points all night. 6’1″ guard, Blackmon was limited to just 7 points in the game against FGCU, but averages 10 points and 3 rebounds per game, on the season. UNA continues to be coached by Tony Pujol, who is in his 4th season at the helm.
FGCU – Outlook
The Eagles enter the ASUN tournament as one of the hottest teams around. Not only have they won 7 of their last 8, but they finished the regular season with back-to-back wins over the top 2 teams in the ASUN-East (Liberty/Jacksonville). In this opening round, FGCU will have to keep that momentum going and keep playing their best basketball. Leading the charge is Tavian Dunn-Martin (TDM), who has been the main catalyst for the team all season. The 5’8″ guard is averaging about 21 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. Kevin Samuel has continued to dominate fellow ASUN bigs. The 6’11” / 255 lb center is averaging approximately 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Cyrus Largie rounds out the top scorers, averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds per game. As continuously stated, the Eagles possess a ton of depth and options offensively. Caleb Catto, Austin Richie, Matt Halvorsen, and several others have provided big minutes/contributions at times over the season.
The main message for this game needs to be “do-or-die”. That’s the position every team is in right now. It does not matter that FGCU beat UNA by 32 points earlier this season. Just last year, the Eagles swept the Lions in the regular season, winning by 9 and 16 points, only to be knocked out of the playoffs by them in a 15 point loss. This is the parody of the ASUN and NCAA Basketball, at large. This is the proverbial “madness” that is March. As we’ve seen over the seasons, any team can win on any given day, no matter the circumstances. The only way to prevent an upset is to play in the moment and take it seriously. Past coaches of mine would say “be where your feet are” in anticipation of big moments and outside distractions. That’s exactly the mind-set that the players need to have in this one. There is no Bellarmine (or any other team for that matter) if they don’t first take care of their business tonight.
Stay up to date on all things FGCU Basketball by following us on socials (Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/TikTok/YouTube). Listen to the pod wherever pods are cast (Spotify/Apple/Google/YouTube) or here at ScreecherReport.com/podcast. Lastly, should FGCU get the win tonight, we will be holding another Watch Party at WOB on Thursday at 7PM. Go Eagles!