Down, but not out, baby! Excuse me grammar, but Dunk City ain’t dead just yet! Much to the excitement of the players, coaches, and fan base, the FGCU faithful will have at least one more chance to witness seniors Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson on the floor together
Established in 2009, the CollegeInsider.com Tournament is a 32-team tournament that selects mid-major programs that were not selected for the NCAA tournament or NIT. While the CIT obviously isn’t the tournament they had hoped for, the senior Eagles will have one final chance to bring home a championship before they move on.
As of today, the full field of 32 has not been released, but the speculation has already begun as to who will make the journey to Dunk City. The format of the tournament is the old NIT format in which the match ups are determined by the results. To make travel easy on the teams, the brackets are generally constructed by region of play, so it can be assumed that FGCU’s first round game will be a team from around the Southeastern part of the country.
Of the teams that have accepted a bid, or could possibly be selected for the CIT, here are five match-ups for the Eagles, in no particular order, that could be likely.
Tennessee Martin: Bid Accepted
The Skyhawks of the Ohio Valley Conference went 18-12 on the season finishing second in the West division. Much like the Eagles, UT Martin features a starting backcourt of seniors in Deville Smith and Marshun Newell. Smith leads the team in scoring and assists, with 13.8 and 4.4, respectively. The FGCU defense will face a challenge in guarding Newell, who shoots 41-percent on nearly five three-point attempts per game. On paper, both teams are similar in the scoring department, and the Skyhawks would present an exciting match up should they make the trip to Dunk City.
Incarnate Word: Bid Accepted
The Cardinals of the Southland Conference finished fifth in their league with an 18-10 record. With quality wins over Princeton and Nebraska, they present a high-octane offense that could give the Eagles’ defense fits. Their 79.6 points per game is seventh in the country, while their 47.2 field goal percentage is 30th. UIW’s main threat is senior guard Denzel Livingston, who is averaging a robust 22 points per game on nearly 46-percent shooting. The First-Team All-Southland player alone would be a handful for Thompson, Jamail Jones, Julian DeBose, and any other players that would have to guard him.
Louisiana Lafayette: Still in Sun Belt Tourney
As long as the fourth seed in the Sun Belt Conference doesn’t make an unlikely run to the NCAA Tournament, the team with the best name in college sports has a good chance of being selected for the CIT. The Ragin’ Cajuns, with their 19-12 record, would present a unique challenge to FGCU because of their presence in the paint. Led by Shawn Long who averages 10.3 boards per contest, UL Lafayette ranks fourth in the country with 40 rebounds per game. Long, a 6’9” junior forward, would be a match-up nightmare for the Eagles. He is averaging a double-double on the season with 17 points to go along with his rebounding. He could also cause problems due to his ability to stretch the floor and shoot the three-ball at a 36.6-percent clip. If the Ragin’ Cajuns get the chance to play at The Nest, the fans would surely enjoy a fast paced offensive showdown.
Norfolk State: Still in MEAC Tourney
With a 19-12 record, good for the second seed in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference, the Spartans have a good shot at making it back to the Big Dance. In terms of tournament history, they’re somewhat similar to FGCU. In 2012, their only year of making it to the tournament, Norfolk State found themselves as a 15-seed facing an outstanding Missouri team in the round of 64. In a thrilling 86-84 victory, the Spartans advanced to the round of 32 to face Florida. Similar to FGCU again, their Cinderella story was ended by the Gators. If they are to accept a bid to the CIT, sending them to Alico Arena would give the tournament a match-up featuring two teams that have pulled off unthinkable upsets on the country’s biggest stage.
Mercer: Eliminated from SoCon Tourney
Come on, this has to be the match-up that all FGCU fans are rooting for! After knocking off Duke in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last year, the Bears bolted from the Atlantic Sun Conference. In their inaugural season in the Southern Conference, Mercer went 18-15. Although they graduated the majority of the players Dunk City fans are used to heckling, they still are coached by the infamous Bob Hoffman. Like Norfolk State, sending Mercer to Southwest Florida would give the CIT a contest featuring two teams that have captured the hearts of Americans for their Cinderella stories. On top of that, reuniting the old conference foes would reignite a spicy rivalry, and give the FGCU seniors one last shot at knocking off Hoffman.