Wednesday night was a good night to be an Eagle. Not only did the FGCU women beat Jacksonville 62-42 to advance to the Atlantic Sun championship, they also punched their ticket to the Big Dance. As the 20th ranked team in the country, it's likely that the Eagles were going to receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament regardless. However, none of the speculation matters anymore. Raining Threes will officially play on the country's biggest stage for the third time in four years.
"That was an overriding goal, getting back to the NCAA's, winning in the NCAA's once we find out who we play, but right now we're in the middle of something that we're trying to complete, and that's win this conference tournament," head coach Karl Smesko said.
NKU is only in their third season as a Division-1 athletic program, so they will not be eligible to compete in the postseason until the 2016-2017 academic year. In order to have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, a conference must have eight members. Because the A-Sun only has eight members, they had no choice but to allow NKU to compete for the conference championship. Put simply, if NKU wins the A-Sun in any sport, the regular season conference champion earns the tournament bid. In this case, FGCU gets the automatic bid. No matter what the outcome of Sunday's game is, the Eagles will represent the A-Sun in the NCAA Tournament.
Regardless, FGCU will enter Sunday's conference championship as heavy favorites. Currently riding a 24 game win-streak, the fourth longest in the country, the Eagles went undefeated in A-Sun play, and have a stellar overall record of 29-2.
Despite the guaranteed spot in the Big Dance, the Eagles are still focused on bringing home another conference tournament championship.
"We're just looking forward to playing in the championship, and whoever we get we're going to game plan as well as we can," senior guard Jenna Cobb said. "Obviously we know it's NKU now."
Cobb was the A-Sun conference tournament MVP last season, and looks poised for a repeat through the first two games of this season's tournament. After scoring 12 last Friday against North Florida, she exploded for a season-high 22 points Wednesday to go along with six rebounds and four steals.
FGCU plays in the Atlantic Sun championship on Sunday at 2:30 in the afternoon. Alico Arena will serve as host to the three-seeded Norse of Northern Kentucky. With an NCAA Tournament bid already wrapped up, the Eagles will be playing to solidify their conference dominance, and cut down the nets at The Nest.