Dunk City may not be back but Florida Gulf Coast certainly is.
In this year’s NCAA Tournament tipoff game, the Eagles blew out Fairleigh Dickinson 96-65 behind a massive performance from Marc-Eddy Norelia, who scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five assists. While FGCU under Joe Dooley is not necessary known for the same style that Andy Enfield used to lead the Eagles to the Sweet 16, the 96 points represented a regulation season high against a Division I opponent.
What else do you need to know from the first game of the NCAA Tournament? Here are three things.
1. Florida Gulf Coast owned this one from the tip and never looked back
It was clear which team would be the aggressor in the early going, as the Eagles jumped out to an 11-0 lead and then continued out to a 21-point advantage by halftime.
Basically, the Knights looked like a team that was No. 263 in KenPom and No. 333 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency rating. They allowed the Eagles to shoot 60 percent from the field and knock down eight 3-pointers. Greg Herenda’s team tried to run a zone, but there was no resistance in ball denial from the guards, and the Eagles were able to just enter the ball into the middle of the lane whenever they wanted in order to attack from the inside. Forward Demetris Morant had 10 points and six rebounds, senior wing Julian DeBose had 14 points and Antravious Simmons had seven points and 10 rebounds.
There was a point early in the second half where it looked like the Knights could push a comeback after back-to-back 3s, but the Eagles stopped that immediately with a 3 of their own to retake the momentum and then continued to pour on points of their own.
2. Even though it was a blowout, it was a fun, up-tempo game. You probably shouldn’t expect that going forward though
Fans of the Florida Gulf Coast of old were in for a treat, as this game was played at an 80-possession pace. That’s actually a higher tempo game than any other game Florida Golf Coast has played this season. The Eagles likely didn’t mind that, as they just kept scoring regardless. Joe Dooley’s club put up 1.21 points per possession, which is a staggeringly high number for a group that occassionally struggled to score this season.
Just because this game was played at such a high tempo though doesn’t mean you should expect it going forward for FGCU. The Eagles were 242nd nationally in pace this season, and actually last in the Atlantic Sun. Plus, given their next opponent, it might make sense for them to try and slow things down …
3. Florida Gulf Coast moves on to play North Carolina
As usual under Roy Williams, the Tar Heels are one of the best transition teams in America. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see FGCU try to take a bit of a more subdued approach, given that fact.
Can they shock the world? Honestly, it would be one heck of a surprise. This is not the same team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2013, and North Carolina is quite a bit more skilled than the Otto Porter-led, No. 2-seeded Georgetown team the Eagles defeated three years ago. But hey, weirder things have happened in college sports, and I think there will certainly be a lot of people rooting for the chaos that would ensue from a North Carolina loss on Thursday.