Three years ago, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles made history by becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Eagles will look to recreate that same kind of magic in this year’s tourney, starting with a First Four clash with the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights this coming Tuesday.
Who will grab the edge in this blockbuster matchup? Read on below for an in-depth breakdown of this play-in game and and while you’re at it, you can check out our preview of the First Four showdown between No. 11 Vanderbilt and No. 11 Wichita State.
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March Madness No. 16 FGCU Eagles vs. No. 16 FDU Knights Preview
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton
When: Tuesday, March 15, 6:40 PM ET
Line: Florida Gulf Coast (-6) vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (+6); total: 152.5 – view all March Madness lines
TV Broadcast: truTV
Betting on the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (Overall: 18-14, Conf: 11-7)
Looking for a Cinderella team in this year’s national tournament? How about the unheralded FDU Knights?
They will look to continue their fairytale run when they lock horns with the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the First Four this coming Tuesday. For the Knights to record the much-needed victory, they will need to continue their excellent form on the offensive end. They are averaging 80.5 points over their last four games.
Expected to lead FDU’s attack are sophomores Darian Anderson and Earl Potts Jr. They were sensational in the NEC championship game against Wagner, scoring 28 and 27 points respectively. What makes this Knights team so dangerous, though, is its incredible depth. In fact, a total of four FDU players averaged in double figures this season. They are Anderson (15.4 PPG), Potts Jr. (14.7 PPG), Marques Townes (11.4 PPG) and Stephan Jiggetts (11.2 PPG).
The Knights are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games.
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Betting on the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (Overall: 20-13, Conf: 8-6)
After a three-year hiatus, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles are right back in the hunt for the national title. They grabbed a spot in the play-in game by winning the Atlantic Sun tournament. It’s a remarkable achievement for the Eagles who notched just their second Division I NCAA men’s basketball tournament berth in their school history.
Masterminding the Eagles’ renaissance is head coach Joe Dooley. When he took the FGCU job three years ago, he deemed it necessary to change FGCU’s style of play. Dooley wanted a side that relied more on toughness and grit and not on its “Dunk-City”ways. That change in strategy has worked wonders for the Eagles who have now won at least 20 games in each of their last four seasons.
That being said, Dooley’s success this year wouldn’t be possible without the inspired play of Marc Eddy Norelia. The junior forward has provided the offensive firepower for the Eagles this season, leading the team in scoring with 17.2 points per game. Norelia’s outstanding play has earned him a spot in the All-Atlantic Sun first team.
In their last game against the Stetson Hatters in the finals of the Atlantic Sun tournament, Norelia scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He didn’t have to do it all, though, as three other FGCU players scored in double-figures. Antravious Simmons, Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell scored 21, 19 and 15 points, respectively, to lead the Eagles to a thrilling 80-78 win.
The Eagles are 142nd in Division I in scoring this season, averaging 70.5 points per contest this campaign. They will be licking their chops at the prospect of facing an FDU defense that’s allowing a whopping 78.3 points per game this season, 313th in the entire nation.
The Eagles are 12-1 ATS in their last 13 neutral site games.
Florida Gulf Coast (-6) wins, 72-61.