We have officially arrived at the start of conference tournament season. The teams within the Atlantic Sun Conference have wrapped up regular season play and the field is now set. Florida Gulf Coast ended the season with a 23-7 overall record, while going 12-2 in conference play. They will enter the tournament as the top seed.
But like any conference tournament, nothing is a given. FGCU will need to run through three teams within this field of eight is they wish to make it to the NCAA Tournament. This will be a one bid conference, so it is win or go home. The regular season no longer matters.
Things will tip-off this coming Monday, February 27th. The semi-finals will then take place on March 2nd, with the title game being televised on ESPN at 3:00 EST on Sunday, March 5th. So let’s take a look at the eight team bracket, shall we?
(1) Florida Gulf Coast
(4) S.C. Upstate
(5) Kennesaw State
(3) No. Florida
(7) N.J. Tech
You can check out the bracket in tweet form below as well.
Who is taking home the 🏀🏆? pic.twitter.com/lRcduYrmGs
— #ASUNMBB 🏀 (@ASUNMBB) February 24, 2017
So let’s get to breaking this down now. First up we have the top-seeded FGCU taking on the last place team in Stetson. Honestly, this one really should not even be much of a contest. When you consider Florida Gulf Coast is good at creating possessions and Stetson usually allows their opponents to create about seven more than they can create a game, Florida Gulf Coast should run away with it. FGCU 90 – Stetson 73.
The four-five matchup should certainly be a little more compelling. S.C. Upstate is more of a defensive team, while Kennesaw State knows how to put the threes down. Now typically I would not have much faith in a team that is not that great at the free throw line in what I see as a close game, but I think the four seed squeaks this one out.
USCU 77 – Kennesaw State 73.
What would a small conference tournament be without a few upsets? Well, when it comes to No. Florida and Jacksonville, this is where I see the first of those happening. Simply put, they know how to score the basketball and will knock down free throws. Nothing in No. Florida’s numbers tells me they are capable of making a run. Jacksonville 81 – No. Florida 76.
In our two-seven matchup, we will see Lipscomb take on NJIT. Lipscomb had a pretty solid season, and had a chance to win the conference late into the year. They clearly outweigh NJIT in this one and I would be surprised to see the upset in this one. Lipscomb 82 – NJIT 75.
Now we move onto the semi-finals, in which we are forecasting Florida Gulf Coast to face off with S.C. Upstate, while Jacksonville takes on Lipscomb. Now the four seed will certainly put up more of a fight than Stetson did for the Eagles. But when you scan over the stats, Florida Gulf Coast still wins out in virtually every metric. Better shooting. Better defense. Better at the free throw line. FGCU 78 – USC Upstate 73.
So who will move on to the championship game to face the top team in the Atlantic Sun Conference? Well, it is not going to be a cakewalk for Lipscomb. They do not shoot the ball as well as Jacksonville, but they do shoot it at a higher rate. That should be enough to offset the different in shooting percentages. Both clubs shoot the ball well from the free throw line. This should be a good one, but the numbers do give the slight edge to Lipscomb.
Lipscomb 83 – Jacksonville 78.
That sets us up for our championship game, with the winner going to the NCAA Tournament. The number one seeded Florida Gulf Coast taking on the second-seeded Lipscomb. Hands down this will be the best game of the tournament, as these two are the cream of the crop in the conference. They finished only a game apart in conference play. But statistically, the sign is pointing to the favorites here. FGCU 79 – Lipscomb 78.
And that does it. I am looking for Florida Gulf Coast to come out on top here and punch their tickets to the Big Dance. Jacksonville is the sleeper in this one, but when all is said and done, this one sets up for the top two clubs going at it. Be sure to keep up to date on all the conference tournament action right here at INSC, as we will be breaking down each