Joe Dooley has tinkered with his starting five the entire year but has found a unit that has started every conference outing this season. Comer, Thompson, DeBose, Jones, and Hicks have started the seven Atlantic Sun games, with a 6-1 record to show for it. Defensively, the Eagles have done a solid job all season long, holding opponents to right around 62 points per game, including sensational three point field goal defense (26.2% - 2nd in the NCAA). Much has been made about the inconsistencies at the offensive end, and the backcourt has provided the bulk of the workload on the year. The power forward and center positions have contributed only 19.6 points a game to this point, coming from primarily four players who have received the majority of the mintues.
Hicks has had his share of solid outings, scoring 11 points against San Francisco earlier this season, and had an eight point outing against Stetson. Hicks’ value becomes apparent in his rebounding ability, averaging nearly five a night. Hicks has started 16 games on the year, yet only has a season high of five field goal attempts in a game, that coming against South Dakota State. Shooting 73% from the foul line on the year, he could see more minutes in crunch time, where his rebounding on both ends of the floor could make a difference late in games.
Demetrius Morant has started 14 games on the season, and has shown flashes of ability on the offensive end. His length and athleticism on the defensive end of the floor are always there, and he has been a prime target for alley-oops from Brett Comer this season. Against Ave Maria all seven baskets Morant had were dished from Comer, and those 14 points are his season high on the year so far. Morant also had a 13 point output against Furman, going 6-9 from the field, along with seven rebounds. Eric Moeller has seen his minutes diminish in conference play, but has shown scoring ability, highlighted by a nine point outing against Pittsburgh earlier this season. It would not surprise me if he will be needed in a key game to provide a lift off the bench as the season winds down.
The frontcourt player who is the most polished has produced the highest scoring outputs this season. Marc-Eddy Noreila got off to a very nice start in his first 12 games, averaging double figures through that stretch, with a 15 point output against UMass that was critical in the road victory up in Massachusetts. He went through a spell that saw his scoring taper off, but has had two nice outings in conference play, scoring 12 against Stetson and 13 against Lipscomb. Averaging the most minutes of any big man on the roster, Noreila has to find the consistency that he began the year with to give the Eagles a very nice balance of scoring that should prove to be useful as postseason play approaches.
The difference in the points scored by the frontcourt players in D-I wins and losses is a telling statistic. In FGCU’s seven losses, the PF/C spots have recorded only 13.7 points a night, compared to 20 points a game in the 13 wins. The differential does not seem severe, but considering the quality of opponents that the Eagles fell to in those losses, clearly the lack of production from those positions made an impact. Looking ahead in the conference schedule, return games from North Florida and USC Upstate and the road trip to Lipscomb likely will decide who takes the top seed for the conference tournament. Production from the bigs will have to be there to aid the guards in putting FGCU over the top of the competition in the ASun to make the road to the NCAA Tournament go through Alico Arena.