With a 72-66 win over Toledo in 2012, the FGCU men's basketball program won a four-team tournament that the Eagles hosted as part of the mainland Battle 4 Atlantis, securing an invite to the 2016 Battle 4 Atlantis. The tournament, hosted annually over Thanksgiving week in the Bahamas, is one of the premiere early-season events.
But late last month ESPN released the eight team field for Nov. 23-25 of 2016 and, to the surprise of some Eagles fans, Florida Gulf Coast was no where to be found.
While playing power conference opponents in a unique environment is enticing for a rising program like FGCU, the Eagles chose a different route to add some consistency and variety to their 2016-17 schedule. The program opted not to head to the Bahamas, and instead shape their schedule similar to 2012-13.
Florida Gulf Coast will travel to two of the teams in the Bahamas based Battle 4 Atlantis (Michigan State, Louisville, Wichita State, Baylor, LSU, VCU, St. John's, Old Dominion) towards the beginning of the season and then host two games around Thanksgiving as part of a smaller series of campus-based Battle 4 Atlantis events.
"It saves money for us to travel and all the other costs associated with the trip and at the same time gives us two more home games while also getting a pair of quality high-major opponents on our schedule," said a FGCU official.
In 2012 the Eagles gained valuable experience early in the season when traveling to Virginia Commonwealth (80-57 loss) and Duke (88-67 loss), before defeating Alcorn State and Toledo in the friendly confines of Alico Arena.
Through ten games this season FGCU stands at No. 140 in terms of strength of schedule (SOS) among the 351 NCAA D-I teams, according to ESPN. This puts the Eagles in fifth in the Atlantic Sun SOS standings, behind Lipscomb (98), Stetson (114), NJIT (119), and Kennesaw State (132).
For a program that has fought an uphill battle in attracting high-quality mid-majors and/or high-major schools to travel to Alico Arena following their Sweet Sixteen run - finishing at No. 328 in Ken Pom's final SOS rankings for 2014-15 - choosing this familiar Battle 4 Atlantis route is promising for a strong 2016-17 non-conference slate.