Game Day Preview: Florida Atlantic Owls


Florida Atlantic University (Public – Research Institution)

Mascot: Owls
Location: Boca Raton, FL
Enrollment: 28,000

2010-2011 Record: 19-10 (13-4 in the Sun Belt Conference)
RPI: 113
Coach: Mike Jarvis (4th year)

First Thought: Florida Atlantic clearly has been overshadowed in recent years by its public “directional-college” brothers Central Florida (Orlando) and South Florida (oddly in Tampa), as those schools have beefed up their football and basketball programs and moved into major conferences. But, Florida Atlantic is now on the rise trying to make an impact in the southern Florida market and the hiring of Mike Jarvis may just put them on the map.

Best win: 63-59 over Hofstra (RPI 86)
Worst loss: 69-42 to Denver (RPI 244)
Last Game: Lost in the first round of the NIT 85-62 to Miami (FL)

Average Scoring: 68.7 ppg (#176)
Average for Opponents: 66.8 ppg

Synopsis: Florida Atlantic is one of those teams who are better than you might expect simply by name recognition. In fact, they are one of those classic teams Romar schedules who no one has heard of, but at the end of the year ends up with a pretty good RPI and plays in a post-season tournament. In 2008, they got really serious about improving their basketball program by hiring Mike Jarvis, who previously took St. Johns, George Washington, and Boston University to a combined 9 NCAA tournaments (including an Elite 8 ) and 6 NIT’s including the NIT Championship in 2003.

Florida Atlantic will be led by a pair of juniors who averaged more than 10 ppg last year. 6’2″ guard Greg Gantt scored 14.0 ppg and 4 rbs and 5’6″ guard Raymond Taylor scored 11.6 ppg and 3.5 rbs. Both logged more than 30 min/game and can be expected to be in almost the entire time this season as well. 5’11” senior guard Alex Tucker also logged 26+ min/game last year while averaging 7.4 ppg and leading the team in assists. 6’8″ junior forward Kore White scored 8.2 ppg and 5.0 rbs and will be expected to take up a lot of the slack inside by the loss of two of their big men. Senior guard Shavar Richardson is also a threat from 3-point range.

Florida Atlantic lost its two tallest players from last season, but they have recruited size to replace them. They are bringing in 6’10” Julian Sargent from Miami Dade JC and a 7′ Croatian transfer from Baylor who will have to sit out this year. In addition, 6’7″ Kelvin Penn from Steilacoom High School in Tacoma is arriving, as well as, a 6’3″ guard from New Jersey.

Florida Atlantic is a team that doesn’t have a great deal of size. But, they do have an experienced quartet of guards who can be expected to push the ball up the floor and are not afraid to launch it up from deep. Greg Gantt is a shoot first guard who only logged 26 assists in 32 games while playing over 30 mins per game. So, having someone locked down on Gantt will be one of the keys to shutting down the FAU offense. It still remains to be seen who our “lock down” defender in the mold of Justin Holiday or Venoy Overton will be. Gaddy seemed to be much improved on D last year before the knee injury. But, will he have the lateral quickness to stop Gantt? CJ Wilcox is very good on defense or perhaps that assignment will go to Tony Wroten?

Alex Tucker is a pass first point guard who doesn’t shoot well from three, doesn’t go inside for rebounds, and did not have half the shot attempts of the other major players. So, it seems fine to back off him a bit and let him have space beyond the arc. But, since he’ll be looking to drive and dish, it will be imperative to have defenders get into the passing lanes and providing weakside if he dishes to a driving Gantt or a big man down low.

My analysis: I think Florida Atlantic may be primed for another strong year as they attempt to defend their Sun Belt regular season title this year. They have a lot of experience, especially in the backcourt positions. But, I think they will not match up very well against UW. I think they lack the size in the backcourt to deal with our taller guards. In fact, players like Ross and Wilcox could probably post them up. Their inexperience on the front line will play well with our own lack of depth and experience. Aziz, Gant, and Simmons ought to be able to handle what they try to bring inside. Jarreau will probably be a nightmare for them to guard given his size and ball handling ability. FAU is a team that isn’t afraid to run, but I think they will be overwhelmed by UW’s speed and athleticism. This in fact may be almost the perfect scheduled opponent for UW in which we can earn a blowout, while at the same time having FAU helping UW’s RPI when they finish with a Top 100 RPI themselves and a spot in the NIT or even the NCAA tournament as a #13 seed.

My Prediction: UW 89 FAU 73