Another college hoops season is in the books. Now that all the dust has settled and the hermits have emerged from their basements after watching wall-to-wall basketball for three weeks, it is time to recap the 2015-2016 season in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Here are the four things you need to know about what went down in the Atlantic Sun this year.
1. North Florida Goes Back to Back
Led by junior point guard Dallas Moore, the Ospreys captured their second consecutive Atlantic Sun regular season championship. Moore led the conference in points per game (19.8) and assists per game (6.0) and was named an honorable mention AP All-American.
The Ospreys front-court duo of DeMarcus Daniels and Chris Davenport did an excellent job protecting the paint finishing first and second in the conference in blocks respectively.
North Florida finished the season 22-12 overall and 10-4 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. Unfortunately for Moore and company, their campaign for a second straight NCAA tournament appearance ended abruptly thanks to a 33 point thrashing at the hands of Florida Gulf Coast in the semi-finals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
Moore decided to take advantage of the new NCAA rule that allows underclassmen to test the waters and declare for the NBA draft without hiring an agent. Moore is buried at the bottom of most mock draft boards, so he will more than likely return to North Florida for his senior year.
2. Florida Gulf Coast Back in the Big Dance
Three years removed from their Cinderella run to the Sweet Sixteen, the Eagles returned to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history. Third-year coach Joe Dooley’s squad looked quite a bit different than the "dunk city" team that upset Georgetown and San Diego State in 2013 to become the only 15 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. This year’s Eagles team focused on grinding it out on defense and getting to the rim on offense. A-Sun Tournament victories over Kennesaw State, North Florida, and Stetson punched the Eagles ticket to the big dance.
The Eagles gave the eventual national runner-up North Carolina Tar Heels about all they could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and trailed by just one point at half time. The Tar Heels eventually pulled away behind All-American Brice Johnson’s 18 points, but the Eagles did a noble job representing the A-Sun in front of the entire nation.
3. What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been for Stetson
Coach Corey Williams’ Hatters season seemed to be dead before it even began after an NCAA audit revealed that the program had missed the national academic performance rating standard by one point. The Hatters were banned from postseason play for the 2015-2016 season as a result of the NCAA’s findings. Then, in a perplexing decision, the A-Sun decided to allow Stetson to compete in the conference tournament. This decision, while perceived as idiotic by many, did not appear that it would have any sort of major impact beyond one game in the A-Sun Tournament.
Stetson finished the regular season with a 4-10 record in conference play, which was tied with USC Upstate for the worst in the league. They entered the A-Sun Tournament as the 7 seed and faced off against an NJIT team that had beaten them twice during the regular season. The Hatters upset NJIT as well as sixth-seeded Lipscomb and found themselves on what appeared to be a Holy Cross-esque run before meeting Gulf Coast in the A-Sun Championship game with a ton on the line.
A Stetson win would have put the A-Sun in a unique position, as the Hatters would not be eligible to accept the automatic NCAA Tournament birth that is awarded to the winner of every conference tournament. Stetson pushed the Eagles all the way to overtime and trailed by just two points with a chance to tie the game late. A mammoth block by Gulf Coast’s Zach Johnson on Divine Myles layup attempt with under five seconds remaining sealed the win for the Eagles and saved the A-Sun executives a lot of scrutiny for allowing a team ineligible for postseason play to win their postseason tournament.
4. Parity on Parity on Parity
Behind North Florida, the next five teams in the conference finished within one game of one another in conference play. Florida Gulf Coast, NJIT, and Jacksonville all posted 8-6 conference records while Lipscomb and Kennesaw State both finished 7-7. This unpredictability was magnified in the A-Sun Tournament in which four of the seven games were upsets, and the conference championship game was between a four seed and a seven seed.