North Carolina (28-6) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (21-13)
Raleigh, N.C. – PNC Arena
Thursday, 7:20 p.m.
TBS (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Lewis Johnson)
“We're just going to stay confident and believe in ourselves and give it our best effort. Anything can happen. As long as we do what Coach says, I'm pretty sure we can make it happen, if it's possible.” – FGCU forward Marc-Eddy Norelia on playing UNC
“They're getting older. They're starting to figure out they've got -- they've played minutes. And now I think they believe in themselves and they believe that if we play the right way and we try to do some things we're supposed to and we take care of the ball and we guard it, we can be a pretty good basketball team.” – FGCU head coach Joe Dooley on his team’s improved play of late
“We've played in some big arenas. We've played some teams. But it will be a whole different animal on Thursday.” – Dooley
Season to Date: Florida Gulf Coast enters Thursday’s contest with a 21-13 record. FGCU’s 2016 season was full of highs and lows, ranging from a 6-7 start to a seven-game winning streak followed by a four-game losing streak. Joe Dooley’s squad has won eight of its last 10 games. FGCU is 0-5 against RPI Top-150 opponents. The Eagles won the Atlantic Sun Tournament as a 4-seed, upsetting top seed North Florida, 89-56, in the semifinals before holding off Stetson, 80-78, in the title game to secure the league’s automatic bid.
How Florida Gulf Coast Got Here: The Eagles trounced the Fairleigh-Dickinson Knights, 96-65, in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton on Tuesday. Junior forward Marc-Eddy Norelia led the team with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard Christian Terrell and senior guard Julian DeBose each added 14 points in the victory. The Eagles led from wire-to-wire, leading by as many as 35 points with just over two minutes to play. FGCU outscored FDU 44-24 in the paint.
Eagles Back in Dance with Different Look: When most fans see the name Florida Gulf Coast University, they immediately harken back to the exciting run of the 2013 Eagles, who upset Georgetown and San Diego State as a 15-seed. That team earned a “Dunk City” nickname by playing a fast-paced style that included plenty of transition dunking opportunities. Three years later, the Eagles have a new look under a new coach, as Dooley took over after Andy Enfield fled to Southern California. Dooley’s squad plays a much more methodical style, ranking 244th in the nation in adjusted tempo, according to kenpom.com, averaging 67.6 possessions per 40 minutes. While the Eagles scorched Farleigh Dickinson for 96 points, FGCU averaged 77 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting (28th nationally) this season.
Norelia Leads The Way: Marc-Eddy Norelia leads the Eagles in scoring (17.2 points per game), rebounding (9.2 boards per game), steals (1.2 per game) and field goal percentage (53.9 percent). The 6-foot-8 big man has scored in double-figures in each of his last 15 games dating back to Jan. 21, including a20-point outing on 10-of-11 shooting against Fairleigh-Dickinson on Tuesday. The junior forward has also recorded 14 double-doubles this season. He will command the attention of UNC’s bigs in the paint Thursday night, and could potentially create some foul trouble early for the Tar Heels.
Terrell Poses Deep Threat: Christian Terrell serves as Florida Gulf Coast’s best 3-point shooter, hitting 36.6 percent of his attempts from outside and leading the team in 3-point attempts. The sophomore guard has struggled with his outside shot as of late, however, hitting just three of his last 13 shots from deep, including a 1-for-6 effort against Fairleigh-Dickinson in the First Four game. The Eagles rank 126th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (35.7).
Eagles Flock the Boards: One thing the Eagles can do as well as most teams in the country is rebound. Florida Gulf Coast is 22nd in the nation in rebounding, averaging 40.2 boards per game, including 11.8 offensive rebounds per contest. FGCU is 44th nationally in rebounding margin (5.0), while also ranking 115th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (31.5) and 61st in opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage (27.0), according to kenpom.com. One area where North Carolina struggles is ending successful defensive possessions and securing the rebound, so the offensive boards could be a key in FGCU hanging around. In the First Four game against Farleigh Dickinson, the Eagles outrebounded the Knights by a margin of 52-33.
Series History: This will be the first meeting between these programs.
25 Marc-Eddy Norelia (6-8, 218, Jr.) – 17.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg
11 Christian Terrell (6-5, 184, So.) - 12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg
3 Julian Debose (6-4, 197, Sr.) - 8.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
21 Demetris Morant (6-9, 209, Jr.) – 5.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg
5 Zach Johnson (6-2, 195, Fr.) - 11.1 ppg, 3.3 apg
1 Reggie Reid (5-11, 162, Fr.) – 3.8 ppg, 3.2 apg
32 Antravious Simmons (6-8, 250, So.) - 7.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg
15 Filip Cvjeticanin (6-9, 218, Sr.) – 4.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg