It appears to be time to rename the Atlantic Sun as the Atlantic Fun Conference. No league has given us more excitement over the last three years.
First we got Dunk City and Florida Gulf Coast's improbable run to the Sweet 16. The it was Mercer downing Duke and giving us a dancing sensation.
Now we have North Florida that, backed by a roaring home crowd, finished off Ty Greene and USC Upstate in the championship of the Atlantic Sun Tournament, 63-57. The Ospreys will be making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
How do we know the fun will continue?
1. The Ospreys got called for not one, but two goaltending calls in this one. Teams don't get called for multiple goaltending violations. They don't go after the block that hard. This team does. Can you imagine how hard the crowd will get behind these guys in the NCAA Tournament when they start swatting shots away with abandon, even if the blocks come a tad bit too late? This is a top seed nightmare waiting to happen.
This will be led by the guy who was the scoring machine for North Florida on Sunday, Demarcus Daniels. He had two legitimate blocks in the win. He also scored 22 points, 13 more than his average on the season, to lead the Ospreys. He did all this coming off the bench. Just imagine the anticipation when he walks onto the floor.
2. The Osprey band has a guy that apparently is made out of rubber bands. He alone leads the crowd in a dance during some timeouts. Today he had to pour water on his head to cool off after his demonstration. That will go a long way to entertain in Dayton, or wherever this North Florida team is sent. I see many gifs in his future.
3. The Osprey fans packed the gym so full that it sounded as if there were 50,000 fans, and the NCAA Tournament happens to coincide with spring break. Do you not think that fans that celebrate this hard won't get on buses to wherever they need to be to support this team? North Florida will have the best traveling group in the NCAA Tournament's first round. And they won't be quiet, even if they get Kentucky.
4. The hustle from these guys doesn't quit. We saw steals of passes that took acrobatic moves that shouldn't be possible after playing a hard 20 minutes of basketball. We saw guys diving all over the floor and just tossing the ball with no care to their teammates to continue the run up the court. This is normally Jalen Nesbitt's arena, but Sunday it was Dallas Moore, the name everyone will need to know, who led the way with three steals.
5. These guys can shoot the lights out. It wasn't on display Sunday -- the Ospreys shot just 38.6 percent from the floor -- but this team entered the game shooting better than 50 percent on their inside shots, and 38.4 percent from 3-point range. They aren't afraid to jack it up, and that can be a recipe for success in the NCAA Tournament if a team starts to get hot. We have seen that turn into some unlikely runs in March, all because a team played unafraid.
Unafraid: that is a good word to describe these Ospreys who stared down Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Ty Greene and dared him to beat them. They held him to just 9 of 23 from the floor, and made sure his path to the basket was never clear.
Most of all though, this is a team that is playing full of energy and with nothing to lose. They have accomplished the No. 1 goal for any team coming out of the Atlantic Fun Conference: make the NCAA Tournament.
Now they can really have some fun.