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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Can Florida Atlantic bounce again subsequent yr?

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Lamont Butler’s dagger because the buzzer sounded in Houston was a coup de grâce to Florida Atlantic’s storybook season. From being picked fifth within the preseason convention match to blitzing via their schedule, the Owls served wake-up calls to each certainly one of their opponents en path to the Remaining 4.

Sadly, Dusty Could’s crew received hit by the Sandman within the closing 14 minutes of their nationwide semifinal matchup towards San Diego State, getting outscored 30-15, together with Butler’s buzzer-beater. The loss was particularly painful for FAU as a result of the sphere had been cleared of high seeds and the storyline felt like one thing stolen out of a Ted Lasso script.

Could had a Ted Lasso high quality to him. Possibly it’s a consequence of being a scholar supervisor witnessing the demise of Bobby Knight firsthand, however Could’s teaching demeanor was an entire 180 from the cranky previous coot who retired because the winningest coach in males’s school basketball historical past. In the actual world although, Could doesn’t depend on his assistants to cowl up for his incompetence.

Even after the loss, Could was lamenting the lack of senior Michael Forrest and meting out saccharine coach-ism sentiments you’d discover on the finish of a sitcom.

“In this era, it’s tough to find great teammates and we have a locker room full of them,” Could informed Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

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TV studio viewers: “aaaaawwww….. (applause)

Like his fictional AFC Richmond counterpart, Could did look overseas — for the inspiration of his teaching philosophy. He’s spoken at size this season about how his offense derived from the Euro-ball that emphasised ball motion, participant motion, and an egalitarian share of the scoring load. It’s uncommon to see one ball handler or scorer dominate FAU’s possessions.

As nice of a narrative as San Diego State is, it’s not as juicy as a result of they’ve misplaced their mid-major aura. They’ve been to the match over a dozen occasions by now and the Aztecs needs to be receiving a Pac-12 invitation any second now.

Future prospects

The Remaining 4 doesn’t need to be the sequence finale for FAU’s limited-run sequence. So what is going to it take to convey the Owls present again for a season two run to the Remaining 4?

They’ve received all of the substances, together with a cohesive ensemble forged returning. Most fashionable packages are an anthology of disconnected groups, trotting out utterly new rosters for each new chapter. FAU’s whole rotation has eligibility remaining in 2023. If they may storm via their schedule and into the NCAA Match because the strongest mid-major within the nation, there’s nothing stopping them from making a repeat run utilizing Saturday’s loss as motivation.

FAU wasn’t a Saint Peter’s sort one-year surprise. They have been an undersold 9-seed, who ought to have been larger. Earlier than the match, they have been nonetheless thought-about the high mid-major within the area of 68 based on Pivot Evaluation, have been ranked within the AP Ballot’s closing high 25, and are a top-20 crew based on KenPom’s adjusted offense and defensive system. If Could had left for greener pastures, you possibly can relaxation assured that Johnell Davis and 7-footer Vladimir Goldin could be coming with him.

Could’s teaching fashion may lean into mawkishness, nevertheless it molded FAU right into a crew with arguably the very best on-court chemistry in school basketball. Not unhealthy for a program that was enjoying in its first NCAA Match ever.

They all the time discovered the open man, the rock by no means stopped and their excessive IQ off-ball actions slid them into opportune scoring positions. Down the stretch although, school basketball’s AFC Richmond wanted a Zava, a playmaking virtuoso who might hotwire the offense after they snapped right into a funk. UConn has a couple of of these offensive cheat codes that may escape and finish a dry spell. San Diego State’s protection was their trump card.

Nevertheless, not a single participant from FAU shall be drafted within the first spherical of the subsequent NBA Draft. Their entire is larger than the sum of their components. Maybe they even look into the switch portal for an improve or to exchange Forrest. Some grad switch needs to be enticed by the prospect of enjoying on that Boca Raton campus for a yr and FAU’s NIL collective raked within the dough they beforehand lacked. They’ll additionally have the ability to assure publicity underneath a extra conspicuous highlight than the one they operated underneath the radar on this season.

Or they’ll run it again with the identical group and their incoming freshman class. A dozen years in the past, Brad Stevens and Butler made a repeat journey to the Remaining 4 and even superior to the nationwide championship recreation the yr after Gordon Hayward was drafted.

A yr after 9-seed Wichita State received a sniff of the Remaining 4, they launched into an undefeated common season demolition tour. The throughline between FAU, Wichita State, and Butler are their skilled rosters creating an dependancy to trouncing foes and retaining the coach who instilled that profitable tradition. Could seems to be on board for an additional run after declining to hop into the teaching carousel. That will not be the case in 2024 if the Florida or Florida State jobs re-opens. In fact, he gained’t stay a scorching identify endlessly in teaching circles if FAU stumbles early subsequent season. This yr wasn’t Florida Atlantic’s time and Could’s skilled ascension is just simply starting, however this will not be the final time we see them on the Remaining 4 stage.

Observe DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex

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