Barring a remarkable run in the final month of the season, the Gophers will not be participating in the NCAA Tournament this March. But the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the best weekend of the calendar year (this is fact, not an opinion). Dozens of college basketball games with teams and players trying to make themselves a household name, even if for just the weekend. Small schools from smaller conferences get their shot at knocking off schools with more established basketball pedigrees. This is going to be a series where we take a look at 24 conferences and the schools most likely to represent them in the NCAA Tournament. Consider this early bracket research to find that Cinderella team that busts everyone’s bracket...except yours.
Last Year’s NCAA Participant: Florida Gulf Coast
Prior Years Upset Team: I think we all remember the Eagles from the 2012-13 season where they were Dunk City, right? FGCU shocked the country that year as a 15-seed after upending Georgetown and San Diego State before falling to Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. They were the definition of a Cinderella.
This year the Atlantic Sun is falling FGCU’s way once again. The Eagles are 10-0 in the conference with a four-game lead over the rest. It’s theirs to lose.
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
KenPom Rank: 127
Off Efficiency: 108.0 (129)
Def Efficiency: 104.4 (142)
eFG%: 54.9% (35)
Why are they dangerous: FGCU is led by the conference’s best player in Brandon Goodwin. Goodwin stuffs the stat sheet with more than 17 points per game, and nearly six rebounds and five assists. Add in Zach Johnson, who chips in 15 ppg, and you’ve got a couple guys who can really score.
NCAA Tournament Outlook
Lipscomb is another team that could potentially take the automatic bid and took down the Eagles on Saturday at home, splitting the season series. However, Florida Gulf Coast is the clear favorite. The Eagles played a tough non-conference schedule, but didn’t make a whole lot of noise. They’re likely destined for a 16-seed, but would hardly be an easy out for whoever draws them.