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Atlantic Sun Roundup: Tough openings tests around the conference

FGCU is off to a quick start, and the Spartans and Bison showed they might make the conference tight this year.

NCAA Basketball: Lipscomb at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball season is in full swing and for many of our favorite mid-major teams, that means difficult matchups to get the season started.

From Friday’s early afternoon tip between Webber International and Stetson to the Hatters’ near-upset Wednesday against USF, Atlantic Sun teams have played 20 games so far. Currently, Florida Gulf Coast is the only remaining unbeaten team in the league.

Here are the takeaways from the first week of action:

Dunk City starts on the right foot

The Eagles hosted Illinois State in one of Saturday’s more intriguing matchups. In an offensive showcase, it was the usual suspects racking up the points for the Eagles. Brandon Goodwin struggled a bit early in the game, but ended up with 21 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, and Zach Johnson also had 27 points. Dinero Mercurius provided a second-half spark for the Eagles when he came off the bench and hit three straight three-pointers. After taking care of the Redbirds, the Eagles then dominated Siena to move to 2-0 on the season.

North Florida Plagued by Tough Non-conference Games

The Ospreys of North Florida might have had one of the toughest opening weekends in all of college basketball, much less the A-Sun. The Ospreys opened the season against No. 2 Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, played the next day against Michigan in Ann Arbor, and then got one day of rest before playing on the road against VCU. They competed well in all three contests, but unsurprisingly the Ospreys are currently sitting at 0-3. Oh, and North Florida continues its season tomorrow against the No. 8 Florida Gators. Matthew Driscoll certainly isn’t afraid of scheduling anyone.

Disappointing finish in Athens for USC Upstate

The Spartans had Georgia on the ropes, and then some. Upstate was clicking on both offense and defense in this one, but the physical play of Georgia senior Yante Maten was too much to handle down the stretch. The Spartans also kept the score somewhat close in their season-opener against 15th-ranked Minnesota. Despite the 1-2 record, Upstate has played competitively against some decent Power 5 competition. If the Spartans continue to play like this, they certainly will compete in conference play much more than they did a season ago.

Lipscomb falls flat in Second Half against ‘Bama

The Bison are a preseason pick by many to be one of the only teams to compete with FGCU this year, and they started off the year 2-0 before losing to Alabama Tuesday night. In the 86-64 loss to the Crimson Tide, both Rob Marberry and Eli Pepper got into some foul trouble that limited their playing time in the crucial minutes when the game started to slip away. Also, Kenny Cooper was apparently playing on an injured ankle for the entirety of the game, so the Bison didn’t quite get their starting five on the court for as long as they would’ve liked. At full strength, the Bison will definitely be a force to be reckoned with, and they’ll have a couple more chances to prove themselves in upcoming non-conference games.

Player of the Week

It hasn’t really been a full week, but Garrison Mathews of Lipscomb has earned Player of the Week honors. Matthews had 37 points against Emory in the Bison’s season opener, and had 25 the next game against Morehead State. Alabama was able to limit Matthews to 15 points, but he had couple of beautiful backdoor cuts for acrobatic layups in a losing effort against the Crimson Tide.

Upcoming games of note (EST):

Thurs. North Florida at No. 8 Florida
Sat. NJIT at No. 22 Seton Hall
Sat. North Florida vs. Mount St. Mary’s (neutral site game in Spartanburg, SC)
Sat. Lipscomb at Texas
Tues. FGCU at Middle Tennessee State
Wed. Kennesaw State at Florida State