The Atlantic Sun tournament’s first round has completed, going mostly as expected minus the #5 Liscomb Bisons defeating the #4 Northern Kentucky Norse in overtime. The second round begins on March 5th, with the #5 Liscomb Bisons at #1 North Florida Ospreys and #3 USC Upstate Spartans at #2 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. It’s two intriguing matchups, but I can’t help to add that it’s missing the Mercer Bears who moved onto the Southern Conference this season. The last two Atlantic Sun tournaments have featured the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles against Mercer Bears, both splitting wins. Perhaps for the better, due to the fact that when the Eagles won in 2012-2013, they pulled off two massive upsets as the #15 seed in the NCAA tournament. The next year the Mercers would advance, adding a shock wave of their own as the #14 seed in the NCAA tournament defeating the Duke Blue Devils. So, in hindsight the Atlantic Sun has been pushing out some worthy NCAA tournament teams and if you recall, the Belmont Bruins used to own the Atlantic Sun and had several upsets in the big dance.
As for a prediction, I think it comes down to the two favorites in the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles and North Florida Ospreys. The Eagles are seasoned and have been to the Atlantic Sun tournament’s finale the last three seasons, however winning only once. They are loaded with seniors, some of which are from that magical 2012-2013 season in Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson. They have also had some impressive wins over the likes of the South Dakota St. Jackrabbits and Massachusetts Minutemen. As for the North Florida Ospreys, they have only reached the finals once since joining Division 1 basketball and the Atlantic Sun conference back in 2005. Usually the bottom dwellers, the Ospreys have put forth their best season of their young existence in Division 1 basketball. They consist of mostly sophomores and juniors, which can spell for a recipe of success next season. I was also impressed by their schedule, especially defeating a possible tournament team in Purdue on the road and then dominating the conference with a 12-2 record. With that said, if this matchup does happen, it will be the third time they meet. The Ospreys took both games and everyone knows that it’s harder the third time because of the familiarity. However, I think that the way the Ospreys distribute the ball and score at such at such a high clip, they will punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time in their Division 1 existence.