The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles drew the short straws on Selection Sunday as both were sent to Dayton to compete in this year's First Four. Both teams come in after upsetting the number one seeded team in their respective conference tournaments.
Greg Herenda's Knights were probably the most surprising team to see in Dayton when the brackets came out. The Knights finished the season 18-14 but were 11-7 in NEC play, which was good enough to grab the second seed in the conference. FDU will know challenge a former Cinderella in FGCU for the right to play top-seeded North Carolina Friday in Raleigh.
Herenda has a young, hard-nosed teams with five double-digit scorers at his disposal. Darian Anderson and Earl Potts Jr. are the Knights two top threats, and the two combined for 55 of FDU's 87 points in the NEC Championship win over top-seeded Wagner on the road. Stephan Jiggetts (11.2 ppg) and Marques Townes (11.4 ppg) are the other sophomore threats for the Knights. The Knights quartet of sophomores will all excite the Dayton crowd Tuesday night with plenty of energy and the ability to shoot the three-ball.
On the other side of things is the return of "Dunk City", but don't be fooled Joe Dooley's Eagles probably won't recruit the Atlantic Sun magic we've seen throughout the past few years. Gone are the high flyers from the 2013 squad, Andy Enfield, and his wife who captivated a nation for two weeks. This version of the Eagles came into the ASun Tournament as a four seed, knocked off top-seeded North Florida, and then beat seventh-seeded, ineligible Stetson in the conference final.
Despite the strange path to the tournament, the 20-13 Eagles can play and have a squad that should challenge in the ASun for years to come. Leading the way for Dooley is Tulane transfer Marc Eddy Norelia, who leads FGCU with 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds. Freshman Zach Johnson (11.2 ppg) and sophomore Christian Terrell (12.6 ppg) are the Eagles young cornerstone, and Dooley's squad gets a boost from Rice transfer Julian DeBose and VCU transfer Antravious Simmons. Simmons, Norelia, and UNLV transfer Demetris Morant should give the Eagles a significant advantage in the post.
This should be a fun, up tempo game for hoops lovers on Tuesday night and because of the style of play and fearlessness the Knights exhibit, I'm taking Fairleigh Dickings 77-71.