Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brett Royster prepares to board the bus that will take the Owls to the airport on Friday. (FAUOwlAccess.com photo)
High stakes in Hot Springs
An NCAA tournament berth is within reach for Florida Atlantic as the Owls head into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Hot Springs, Ark.
Originally published on
BOCA RATON – After an impressive run through the Sun Belt Conference which began in December, Florida Atlantic’s most important games of the season will be in the next three days.
The Owls head to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Hot Springs Ark. knowing what’s at stake – an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
FAU, the winner of the Sun Belt’s Eastern Division, opens the tournament on Sunday against either North Texas or Troy in the quarterfinals.
The Owls think they have the kind of team that is built to win three games in three days and to cut down the nets on Tuesday.
“We’re ready for this and everything we’ve done this season is for this,” forward Brett Royster said. “We’re feeling very confident.”
Should FAU fall short of winning the tournament, the Owls are assured a bid to the NIT by virtue of winning the Sun Belt Conference Regular Season Championship.
“You are playing for the NCAA Tournament and that always should be your goal,” FAU coach Mike Jarvis said. “I’d be shocked if anyone is thinking about the NIT. It sure is nice to have, but it’s not the big prize.”
But having a potential NIT bid does remove some of the pressure for the Owls,
“Knowing that we have a fallback takes the pressure off a little, but at the end of the day what we see is the NCAA Tournament,” Royster said. “We’ve said multiple times this season that anything less than a trip to the NCAA Tournament is not a successful year.”
What You Need to Know: Sun Belt Conference Tournament
- Record: 21-9, 13-3 Sun Belt
- Vs. FAU: N/A
- Top gun: Greg Gantt 14.0 ppg
- Of note: FAU has never won a neutral site game in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
2. Middle Tennessee
- Record: 15-15, 10-6
- Vs. FAU: Lost 71-67 at MTSU on Jan. 13. Lost 62-51 at FAU on Jan. 27
- Top gun: James Washington 13.9 ppg
- Of note: Blue Raiders have lost three of their last four games, including a 70-68 loss last week to Houston Baptist, which had the worst RPI in the nation.
3. Western Kentucky
- Record: 14-15, 8-8
- Vs. FAU: Lost 78-73 at WKU on Jan. 15. Won 57-53 at FAU on Jan. 29.
- Top gun: Sergio Kerusch 15.1 ppg
- Of note: Lost two of last three, including an ugly 57-39 loss to MTSU in regular-season finale
4. South Alabama
- Record: 12-15, 6-10
- Vs. FAU: Lost 65-57 at FAU on Jan. 6. Lost 74-64 at USA on Feb. 27
- Top gun: Martino Brock 15.2 ppg
- Of note: Augustine Rubit was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year
- Record: 8-20, 6-10
- Vs. FAU: Lost 82-77 (OT) at Troy on Dec. 16. Lost 77-60 at FAU on Feb. 24.
- Top gun: Vernon Taylor 15.6 ppg
- Of note: The Trojans allowed a Sun Belt-high 77.1 ppg.
- Record: 10-18, 5-11
- Vs. FAU: Lost 73-72 at FAU on Feb. 2. Lost 80-78 (OT) at FIU on Feb. 19
- Top gun: DeJuan Wright 15.0 ppg
- Of note: Wright has a double-double in 10 consecutive games
1. Arkansas State
- Record: 17-14, 11-5
- Vs. FAU: Lost 61-57 at FAU on Jan. 8
- Top gun: Martavius Adams 11.2 ppg
- Of note: Red Wolves dealing with loss of guard Trey Finn who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice this week.
- Record: 14-14, 11-5
- Vs. FAU: Won 72-64 at FAU on Feb. 12
- Top gun: J.J. Thomas 11.7 ppg
- Of note: The Ragin’ Cajuns are the hottest team in the Sun Belt and have won 11 consecutive games
- Record: 13-16, 11-5
- Vs. FAU: Won 69-42 at Denver on Feb. 10
- Top gun: Chase Hallam 12.7 ppg
- Of note: The Pioneers are 2-14 away from Magness Arena this season.
4. North Texas
- Record: 19-10, 8-8
- Vs. FAU: Lost 72-55 at UNT on Feb. 3
- Top gun: Tristan Thompson 17.2 ppg
- Of note: The Mean Green led the SBC with 76.2 points per game.
- Record: 15-16, 7-9
- Vs. FAU: Lost 88-71 at FAU on Jan. 22
- Top gun: Soloman Bozeman 15.8 ppg
- Of note: Bozeman was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.
- Record: 7-23, 2-14
- Vs. FAU: Lost 60-58 at ULM on Dec. 19
- Top gun: Fred Brown 13.9 ppg
- Of note: The Warhawks were last in the Sun Belt in scoring with 60.3 ppg.