The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have solidified themselves as one of the premier mid-major college basketball programs in the past few seasons. Everyone remembers the 2013 run to the Sweet 16, but the common fan may not know the Eagles boast a streak of six-straight 20-win seasons. They’ve accrued three regular season conference championships and two more appearances in the big dance since 2013 as well.
So the people of Fort Myers are accustomed to winning basketball games. The big news surrounding the team this offseason was head coach Joe Dooley’s departure and long-time assistant Michael Fly promotion to head coach. Despite the coaching change and many new faces on the team, the Eagles were still expected to compete. However, Fly’s first month has been difficult.
FGCU currently sits at 2-7. Last year the Eagles did not lose their seventh game until Dec. 22. The year before, their seventh loss came on Feb. 9. The 2018-19 campaign looked to be on the right track when the Eagles knocked off Mike Daum and South Dakota State, who sit at No. 9 in our The Other Top 25 rankings. However, the wheels have essentially fallen off since that win. They’ve lost five straight, with some of them being blowout losses to teams they were expected to compete with. The recent slide has included a 28-point blowout against Toledo, an 11-point loss to a then-winless UTSA team, another blowout loss to FAU, and finally a home defeat against FIU.
It’d be one thing if they were just struggling in one specific aspect of the game. That’s not the case. Their offense doesn’t quite have the point guard to run their offense through like they’ve had with Brandon Goodwin in the past. Decardo Day leads the team in assists per game with 2.9, and just behind him is RaySean Scott with 2.5. However, these guys have not been playing point guard for the majority of the season. Scott has missed seven games with an injury and Day is eighth on the team in minutes played. Haanif Cheatham and Christian Carlyle have been running the offense for the most part, and they’re gifted scorers, but not necessarily pass-first type of guys needed for the offense to run smoothly.
FGCU’s defense hasn’t been much better. The Eagles have given up 80-plus points four out of their last five games. They’ve been out-rebounded in five of their last seven games. The Eagles seem to lack the big defensive enforcer down low like they’ve had in the past. Ricky Doyle and Brady Ernst are their two tallest players, but have had trouble getting playing time, sitting at ninth and 10th on the team in minutes played per game.
Slow starts and offensive dry spells to games have been commonplace. In the loss to Michigan State, the blowout began essentially right after the opening tip. Against Toledo, they found themselves trailing by eight less than five minutes into the game. A sluggish start to the second half against Colorado State caused a two-point lead to turn into a 17-point deficit.
One more mid-blowing stat to put things into perspective: FGCU has 134 turnovers already this season. That’s the eighth-worst mark out of all D-1 teams.
It isn’t just that one thing’s not working. It’s that nothing is working.
One thing is for sure: The Eagles need to turn things around before conference play rolls around. The ASUN is stronger than ever this year. Lipscomb is on an absolute tear, newcomer Liberty is looking impressive, and NJIT is quietly sitting at 7-1. FGCU has the talent to compete in the ASUN, but it needs to start stringing together quality performances before they head into conference play.
The moniker “Dunk City” is still thrown around when talking about FGCU, but the guys that played for that 2013 team have been gone for some time. There’s been two head coaching changes and five years have passed since that run to the Sweet 16. The magic and allure has long since gone.
If FGCU continues the path they’re on, they’ll be left out of postseason tournament action for the first time in six years. They’ve gone on winning streaks in the past, and they desperately need one now. There’s still time for the Eagles to turn this season around, but something has to change drastically for them, and it needs to happen now.