The 20-13 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles will take on the 18-14 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights on Tuesday in a play-in game with the winner advancing to face the North Carolina Tar Heels in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Florida Gulf Coast is making their first appearance in the tournament since 2013 when they made it to the Sweet Sixteen. The Eagles move on after they hung on for an 80-78 overtime win over Stetson to claim the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship. The Knights are back in the tournament for the first time since 2005. They beat Wagner 87-79 to claim the Northeast Conference Championship.
Farleigh Dickinson started the season losing 6 out of their first 8 games but then went on to win 16 of their last 24. They enter this game on a 5 game winning streak and have averaged more than 80 points over their last 4 games. The Knights are the youngest team in the nation and are led by Sophomores Darian Anderson and Earl Potts Jr. who both average at least 14 points per game and both came up huge in the NEC Championship game against Wagner combining for 55 points. Marques Townes and Stephan Jiggetts also averaged double digits at 11 points per game. Defensively, they forced their opponents into 15 turnovers per game this season but rank 313th in the Nation by giving up an average of 78.3 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting. They are also the worst defensive rebounding team in the tournament allowing opponents to get the offensive rebound on 36 percent of missed shots.
Florida Gulf Coast have won 5 of their last 6 games and are led by Marc Eddy Norelia who is averaging 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He is the only player on the Eagles roster to make the All-Atlantic Sun first team. Christian Terrell and Zach Johnson are also averaging double digits in scoring. Sophomore guard Antravious Simmons averaged 7.7 points a game this year but came up huge against Stetson in the championship game. He led the team in both scoring and rebounding with 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds which are both career highs. The Eagles are also a young team with 84 percent of their points and 88 percent of their rebounds coming from underclassmen. In their last 5 games, they are outscoring their opponents by more than 12 points as they have averaged 78 while only allowing 66 points per game. Defensively, they hold opponents to just 31 percent from three-point range, which is good for 8th best amongst NCAA tournament teams.
Florida Gulf Coast has the experience advantage having been to the sweet sixteen just 3 years ago while the Knights haven’t been to the tournament in over a decade. The Eagles are 19-14 against the spread this year including 10-10 as the favorite. The Knights are 18-12-1 against the spread this year including 11-5 as the underdog.
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