For the third time on Saturday, a team will rush the court in jubilation over making it to the NCAA Tournament. The heavily favored Belmont Bruins will look to avoid the upset in the Atlantic Sun Final when they take on the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
The Eagles have never been dancing before, and they are going to have a chance to really make some history if they can pull off the upset on Saturday night. Few gave them a chance to get the job done against the Mercer Bears yesterday, but alas, the magic of March happened yet again. At just 15-16, there is no doubt that Gulf Coast is overmatched in this one, but there is no way that it is going to back down. Depth is really making a difference for this team, as it is a squad that rotates a ton of players. No one averages more than 28 minutes per game on the whole roster, yet there are nine players that get on the court for at least 15 minutes per game. Eight of the nine are averaging at least 6.6 points per game, led by Sherwood Brown, who is averaging 12.9 points per game. Turning the ball over is a problem at times for the Eagles, though they have taken care of the basketball and forced a slew of turnovers in this tournament.
The argument could be made that the Bruins should be in the NCAA Tournament whether they win this game or not, because they do have a team that is probably amongst one of the best 30 teams in the country that aren’t getting automatic bids to the dance. However, a loss to a team that would be finishing at just 16-16 isn’t going to cut it, and in the end, the Bruins had better make no mistakes unless they want to play in the NIT this year. We have seen Belmont fight the big boys this year. It nearly beat the Duke Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and it did knock off the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on a neutral court. Though the Bruins don’t use the same type of rotation that the Eagles do, they are definitely a deep team that can run up and down the court. Four players are averaging in double digits per game, and two others are good for at least 8.7 points per game. Scoring over 80 points was the norm for the Bruins in the A-Sun campaign, though what we have seen thus far here in Macon is that teams have been finding ways to at least slow this offense down just a bit.
The Final Word: There isn’t a line up yet for this one, but we expect the number to be in the high-teens, and for good reason. Neither of the meetings between these two this year were even remotely close, as Belmont won going away by at least 23 in both meetings. In fact, Gulf Coast has had very little luck since joining the A-Sun against the Bruins, and we just don’t see that changing on Saturday. It was a nice run and a nice story for Florida Gulf Coast, but it comes to an end quickly in the league final.
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles @ Belmont Bruins Pick: Belmont Bruins
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.