GAME NOTES: The 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament tips off on Wednesday afternoon, as the second-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles take on the seventh- seeded North Florida Ospreys at Hawkins Arena.
After a solid 16-16 season in 2011-12, North Florida regressed this time around to 13-18 overall and just 8-10 in the conference. The Ospreys have a few things going for them however, as they won three of their last four games to close out the regular season, and they were 2-0 on neutral floors this season.
Florida Gulf Coast came into the season with high expectations after it advanced all the way to the A-Sun Tournament championship game last year and it did not disappoint, going 21-10 overall and 13-5 in the league, finishing just a game behind Mercer for the regular-season title. The Eagles have shown improvement in the win column in four consecutive seasons now.
FGCU swept the season series between these intrastate rivals for the first time since joining the league in 2007-08, taking an 8-7 lead in the all-time series in the process.
UNF is hovering around the middle of the pack in the A-Sun both in terms of scoring offense (66.4 ppg) and scoring defense (69.7 ppg), and it has been hindered by poor turnover (-1.8) and rebounding (-4.2) margins as well. The catalyst for the Ospreys is Parker Smith, who pours in 15.8 ppg while leading the conference in both 3-pointers made (110) and 3-point percentage (.426). Travis Wallace is a strong second scoring option with 14.4 ppg, doing so on 58.3 percent field goal shooting, while also grabbing a team-high 5.1 rpg. Will Wilson doesn't offer much in the way of scoring, netting a lowly 3.6 ppg, but his 6.1 apg ranks second-best in the league.
The Eagles have found plenty of success this season behind the league's top- ranked offense, which generates 72.7 ppg at a 46.2 percent clip. Their point totals have been more than enough to support a decent defensive effort (66.8 ppg), which allows opposing teams to shoot just 40.9 percent from the field (second in A-Sun). Sherwood Brown leads the way for FGSU, as he is averaging 15.2 ppg with 63 3-pointers, while also hauling in a team-best 6.3 rpg, and he was named A-Sun Player of the Year earlier this week. Nipping at Brown's heels is Bernard Thompson with 14.1 ppg, and thanks in part to 2.8 spg, he was dubbed the A-Sun's Defensive Player of the Year. Chase Fieler is stellar in the paint with 11.8 ppg (on 56.9 percent field goal shooting) to go with 5.3 rpg and 1.4 bpg, while Brett Comer (7.4 ppg) is the only player in the league to hand out more assists than UNF's Wilson, doing so for 6.3 per contest.
FGCU has been strong all season long, and it has already proven its dominance over UNF by sweeping the season series. Don't expect much to change in this one, as the Eagles have a team capable of making a serious title run.