Atlantic Sun tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info
Will Dunk City get back to the NCAA tournament? Florida Gulf Coast will likely battle with Mercer for the automatic bid.
What: Atlantic Sun championship.
When: March 4, 6, 9.
Where: Campus sites. The higher seed in each game hosts.
Bracket: View tournament field here.
TV: Quarterfinals and semifinals on ESPN3. Championship game on ESPN2 (March 9, 2 p.m.).
Last year's champ: Florida Gulf Coast (26-11, No. 15 seed)
What matters: The biggest question heading into the conference tournament is about Florida Gulf Coast: can Dunk City get back to the NCAA tournament? The Eagles got the top seed in the bracket, edging out Mercer due to tiebreakers. Mercer beat Seton Hall and Ole Miss in the non-conference and has the pieces to get to the tournament, but the Bears lost two of their final four games. Outside of the top two, the hottest team in the league might be Lipscomb, which has won eight of its final 10 games heading into the tourney.
Who matters: Florida Gulf Coast returns many of the pieces from last season's NCAA tournament team that advanced to the Sweet 16, including Brett Comer (14.2 ppg, 5.4 apg), Bernard Thompson (15.1 ppg) and Chase Fieler (13.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg). Mercer is carried by Langston Hall (14.9 ppg, 5.5 apg), perhaps the league's best playmaker and distributor. The league's best player overall might be USC-Upstate's Torrey Craig (16.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg), a matchup nightmare in the frontcourt.
Fun fact: 17-1. That's Florida Gulf Coast's home record in Atlantic Sun play over the last two seasons, with the lone loss coming last season to Lipscomb in overtime. The Eagles picked up the all-important No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, meaning they will have homecourt advantage throughout the tourney.
Prediction: Florida Gulf Coast knocks off Mercer in the championship game. Mercer has the league's best offense and defense (both in scoring and efficiency), and on a neutral site, the Bears would probably have the edge. However, FGCU will be playing on its homecourt, where the Eagles took down Mercer by 14 points just two weeks ago. It looks like new head coach Joe Dooley will keep the good times going in Fort Myers -- Dunk City will be back in the NCAA tournament.
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