A-Sun and Done? Not so Fast


There are 33 conferences in Division-1 basketball, but only one of them has provided the most stunning March Madness upsets in each of the past two seasons.

That would be the Atlantic Sun. For those hoping to finally fill out the perfect NCAA Tournament bracket, the A-Sun has been the cause of a lot of angst. For those who root for the underdog and enjoy good basketball, it has been a lot of fun to watch.

First came the unheralded bunch from little-known Fort Myers. In 2013, the Eagles dunked their way into the hearts of American’s everywhere while securing the first-ever Sweet Sixteen berth by a 15 seed.

Last year, it was Mercer who traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to play No. 3 Duke. The Bears knocked the breath out of the Cameron Crazies in a 78-71 win over the Jabari Parker led Duke squad.

Although Parker is now playing in the NBA and Mercer has moved on to the Southern Conference, the A-Sun is still hoping to bust many a bracket this March.

While the postseason heroics of the A-Sun have been well documented, the small 8-team conference is still seeking the respect of experts around the nation. A recent ranking by CBS Sports placed the A-Sun 30th out of the 33 conferences. After losing two respected members (Mercer and ETSU) and seeing a number of impressive talents graduate, the conference appeared to be on the decline.

However, the early season performance of a few resilient A-Sun teams has changed the opinion of some. In fact, preseason favorite FGCU looks to haves some serious competition for the lone Atlantic Sun bid to the NCAA tournament.

In the preseason coaches’ poll and media poll, the Green and Blue claimed 7 of 8 and 25 of 26 first place votes, respectively. North Florida received each of the remaining first place votes, and it seems to have been warranted.

The Ospreys recently dismantled the Eagles by a score of 80-64. Backed by an impressive 12 3-pointers and 45448-percent shooting, the Jacksonville-based team proved it is a force to be reckoned with. The offensive outburst was not out of the ordinary for UNF. The Osprey’s currently rank 30th in the nation in points per game with 75.4, ahead of the likes of Kentucky, LSU and Utah. With an impressive win over Purdue and a two-point heartbreaker against Northwestern during their non-conference schedule, the Ospreys put the rest of A-Sun on notice. Their dominance has continued into conference play, as North Florida is the only remaining undefeated team in the A-Sun (6-0).

Also vying for the top spot in the Atlantic Sun is USC Upstate. After falling twice to the Eagles last season by a combined margin of merely 7 points, the Spartans are hungry to turn the tables. The ambitious group is hoping to be the third A-Sun team in three years to reach the NCAA tournament round of 32. Based on their performance thus far, that doesn’t seem far-fetched.

After 16 games, a 12-4 record, and a bevy of notable performances, they looked ready to dominate their A-Sun competition.  Earlier in the season, the Spartans tiptoed into Atlanta to face off with Georgia Tech and escaped with a 59-54 victory. After snatching a win from an ACC opponent, Upstate hopped over to Maryland to take on the then-19th ranked Terrapins. Upstate held a halftime lead over the Big Ten Conference contender before ultimately falling in the closing minutes. The Spartans completed their tour of power conferences with a Saturday tilt against SEC opponent, Mississippi State.   Ty Greene drained a game winner with 6.3 ticks left to lead his crew to a 53-51 triumph.

After touring the nation collecting wins against quality competition, USC Upstate should have returned to the “weak” Atlantic Sun and laid waste to the competition. Right?


Instead, the Spartans have struggled to keep their heads above .500. The culprit? That would be the rest of the “weak” A-Sun. First it was Lipscomb. The Bisons did just enough to hold off a late run from Upstate and come away with the win. Since then, Lipscomb has reeled off three more victories before consecutive losses to UNF and FGCU has dropped them to third in the conference.

After the heartbreaker against Lipscomb, Ty Greene led his team against Northern Kentucky. The Norse built a late lead and withstood the Upstate charge to cling to a 66-65 advantage as time expired.

The dubious streak would only continue as the Spartans hosted the Eagles. In what is becoming an alarming trend for Upstate, the Green and Blue built a lead late in the contest and – surprise, surprise—the Spartans couldn’t quite overcome the deficit.

Despite everything that has gone wrong in Spartanburg, Upstate still boasts the 31st ranked scoring defense in the nation. They are limiting opponents to a stifling 59.3 points per game. Paired with their 72 points scored per game, which ranks 77th in the country, there is reason to believe the Spartans could still threaten to win conference.

In fact, since falling to the Eagles, Upstate has defeated both Stetson and Jacksonville by a combined scoring margin of 37 points. The Spartans sit 4th in the conference at 3-3 and are in a solid position to threaten at the conference tournament in March.

Then there is FGCU, the team that started it all way back in 2013 with the Cinderella run to the round of 16. This season, Joe Dooley has the deepest and most athletic team in program history at his disposal. After flying out to a 8-1 start, including victories over Ohio, UC Santa Barbara and UMass, the Eagles have fallen back to earth. After tough stretch of games against powerful opponents left the troops limping, they’ve rebounded to go 3-1 in conference play.

Things are starting to look up again for FGCU. After suffering the defeat against UNF, they put the clamps on the JU Dolphins in a 29-point romp. Next up was the Spartans. Brett Comer and Julian DeBose were clutch late and all of a sudden, this Eagles team is on the rise.

Their ascension has continued in road and home wins over Kennesaw State and Lipscomb, respectively. The 16-point triumph over the Bison’s gave the Green and Blue sole possession of second place in the A-Sun, setting them up for a potential battle for first place in the A-Sun when they host UNF on February 25th.

With the conference tournament fast approaching, the A-Sun is a lot more unpredictable than most had anticipated. What is predictable? You can count on there being an A-Sun representative playing on the big stage this March, and they won’t go quietly.

FGC-WHO? with Mikey Tolvo Episode 3

FGCU Athletics and the official FGCU Athletics Blog, The Birds Eye View, presents “FGC-WHO?“, a quirky, outlandish and sometimes outrageous look at some of our favorite athletes you might not be familiar with.

In the third segment, Mikey Tolvo checks in with FGCU men’s tennis player Tianyu Bao with the help of his teammate Michael Beiler. Mikey then helps us all get to know Bao a little better with an exclusive interview you won’t want to miss.

#DepthCity on Display in Win Over Florida Tech

By Cameron Kaiser

FGCU v FIT 12/03/2014

Photo Credit to Linwood Ferguson

Wednesday night, the FGCU men’s basketball team returned home to The Nest to take on the Florida Tech Panthers before a tough weekend on the road. What started as a tight game, the Eagles thrashed the Panthers to win 77-58, and improved their record to 7-1.

Dunk City showed once again why they have taken to being called Depth City this season. For the fifth time in eight games, FGCU featured a different starting five. Nine players logged more 10 minutes, while no player logged more 30. On top of that, the Eagles had five bench players who totaled more minutes than their five starters.


Thompson Tames Bobcats, Shatters Records Along the Way

By Cameron Kaiser

FGCU v Ohio 11/19/2014

Photo Credit Linwood Ferguson

FGCU’s 79-62 victory over the Ohio Bobcats featured many strong performances from a multitude of players, but no one stood out more than the Atlantic Sun’s Preseason Player of the Year, Bernard Thompson.

 Thompson put on a show in front of the sold-out crowd at Alico Arena. Thompson, who struggled to find his footing in the first two games, went off for 34 points in what proved to be a rout over another mid major that’s been to the Sweet Sixteen recently.


FGC-WHO? with Mikey Tolvo Episode 2

FGCU Athletics and the official FGCU Athletics Blog, The Birds Eye View, presents “FGC-WHO?“, a quirky, outlandish and sometimes outrageous look at some of our favorite athletes you might not be familiar with.

In the second segment, Mikey Tolvo checks in with FGCU women’s soccer comedy trio Emma Blackwell, Ally Kasun and Kaitlin Parker and sets forth a series of absurd challenges that they make all their own. With the help of a certain caped crusader who makes a special guest appearance, Mikey then helps us all get to know this dymanic group a little better with an exclusive interview you won’t want to miss.

FGC-WHO? with Mikey Tolvo Episode 1

FGCU Athletics and the official FGCU Athletics Blog, The Birds Eye View, presents “FGC-WHO?“, a quirky, outlandish and sometimes outrageous look at some of our favorite athletes you might not be familiar with.

In the first segment, Mikey Tolvo takes on Eric Moeller in an absurd game of one-on-one. Get to know FGCU newcomer Moeller in this David and Goliath bout that ends about as well as you would expect. Also, don’t miss an exclusive interview for everything you may or may not need to know about the 6’11’ Eric.

Softball Stands Out with Service

By Michael Tolvo

In January, members of FGCU Softball team lent their efforts towards a home renovation for Habitat for Humanity (read about it here).  This September, led by 13th-year head coach David Deiros, the 2014-15 softball squad displayed its diverse skill set by serving at separate sites for different causes on two-consecutive weekends.


Eagle Council Kicks Off 2014-15 Season with Student Athlete Picnic


On Sunday, August 24th, Eagles Council (SAAC) hosted their annual Student-Athlete Welcome Back Picnic, gathering 250-plus student-athletes, coaches and administrators together to officially kick off the 2014-15 academic year.

The picnic started with all of the newcomers introducing themselves to the returners and coaching staff. Ken Kavanagh, Director of Athletics, and FGCU’s President, Dr. Wilson Bradshaw, welcomed everyone with a motivational speech about the excitement of the upcoming seasons.

Words of Wisdom from A Former Student-Athlete

BechtelBy Morgan Bechtel

Contributors: Michael Tolvo

In 2013, Ohio native Morgan Bechtel graduated from FGCU after four successful years as a member of the Green and Blue’s women’s tennis squad.  Merely two years after graduating and securing a job, Bechtel has risen through the ranks of her firm at an astounding pace.  The former A-Sun Academic All-Conference Team member credits her time as an Eagle student-athlete for helping develop many of the skills she uses on a daily basis.  On the tennis court as a senior, Bechtel played in the No. 1 doubles spot and notched five victories over opposing schools top pairings.  In the No. 4 singles spot, she was able to secure a 7-5 record, including three triumphs on the road.  Recently, Bechtel wrote a letter addressed to all FGCU Student-Athletes:


Dear FGCU Student-Athletes,

Eagerness to Learn Leads Sale to Top of the Majors

By Liam Jones


CHICAGO – On June 1, White Sox ace Chris Sale concluded a complete-game two-hitter in front of more than 23,000 fans at US Cellular Field. Backtrack to 2009 and the Eagles’ star put on a similar performance against Stetson, with just 75 people in attendance.

It’s safe to say that the former FGCU ace has experienced a change in scenery.

“At first I had some nerves and a little anxiety just because I had never pitched in front of thousands of people before,” Sale said of his first appearance with the White Sox. “But I enjoyed it and learned how to handle it and try to not pay attention to everyone in the stands.”

But Sale’s dominance on the mound has stayed consistent, if not grown, over the years. Out of Lakeland High School, his heat caught the eye of the Colorado Rockies, and he was drafted in the 21st round. Instead, Sale chose to attend Florida Gulf Coast University.

“I felt like at the time it was just a better opportunity for me. Not only to mature as a baseball player but as a person. Coming out of high school, I was 18 years old and didn’t really have a good grasp on life,” Sale admitted recently while sitting in the White Sox dugout the afternoon following a one-run, 10-strikeout performance against the Tigers.