Florida Atlantic is only two wins away from college basketball immortality. Let me repeat that for those in the back... Florida Atlantic is only two wins away from college basketball immortality.
Crazy isn’t it?
Imagine if I told you that at the start of the season, let alone the start of the NCAA Tournament. You would’ve called me crazy, right?
There was no way that they were getting past Memphis in the first round. They had a strong final five minutes and did just that.
In the next round, they had one of the all-time great Cinderella’s in NCAA Tournament history in front of them, Fairleigh Dickinson. Beat them.
The next weekend, they made Madison Square Garden their home, beating Tennessee and Kansas State, clinching the Conference USA’s first trip to the Final Four since 2008.
Now, the Owls are two wins away from winning a national title and handing Conference USA the first triple crown in college basketball history (North Texas or UAB will win NIT Thursday night, and Charlotte has already won the CBI).
Here’s how they can do it... also where they might have some hiccups.
What Florida Atlantic needs to do to win the national championship
The obvious answer is to win two games, but its matchup against San Diego State will be one of attrition.
These are two of the strongest and deepest teams in the country, so whoever forces its will throughout the game and wins the battle at the free throw line will end up winning this game.
Strength starts at the center position, and Vlad Goldin needs to have a game as he did against Kansas State. Last weekend, the Russian had 14 points and 13 rebounds against a top-30 defense in the country.
The downside for the Owls is San Diego State is a far better defense, one of the top five in the nation. Their rock will be one-on-one with Goldin in Nathan Mensah, the winner of the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year award.
FAU enters Saturday’s game as a three-point underdog on the DraftKings Sportsbook and can be bet on the money line at +110.
If the Owls gets past the Aztecs, they will have a clear size advantage down low against Miami, which they should once again utilize. Norchad Omier is crazy strong but six inches shorter than Goldin.
In a battle against UConn, they have the impose their strength and wear out the Huskies. UConn has the worst minutes continuity of the four remaining teams. Along with this, Goldin has a couple of inches on Adama Sanogo.
All in all, if Goldin has a great weekend and Florida Atlantic plays its usual bully-style rotational ball, there could be some mid-major history made in Houston on Monday night.
Why Florida Atlantic will fall short
Let’s not focus on the downsides, y’all. Florida Atlantic is having one of the best seasons in recent college basketball history, and it honestly needs to be talked about more than it has.
With the exception of The Bracketeer’s Rocco Miller, the Owls were completely off of everyone’s radar this offseason. That didn’t matter to them though, as they went on an impressive 20-game win streak and have won 35 games, the most of anyone in the country.
If they were to be sent home early this weekend, it’ll be because Mensah imposed his will down low against Goldin, and the Aztecs ran out to a 20+ point lead at the break.
The Owls have been good at completing second-half comebacks this season, as anything within a dozen points always seems within reach. They have to keep it in that area to have a chance this weekend.
If you want to make a little investment on Florida Atlantic winning it all, they are the largest underdog in the field at +650.