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2013-14 Atlantic Sun Post-Mortem

June 17, 2014 Columns, Conference Notes No Comments

The Atlantic Sun doesn’t get a whole lot of publicity over the course of the season. But when the postseason comes around, beware. Atlantic Sun teams have won a game each of the past two NCAA Tournaments. And that’s just the beginning.

Atlantic Sun teams have won 14 postseason games over the past four years, and have won at least one game every year since 2009. The conference has continued to perform well in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, where they placed two teams this season.

As good as things were at the top, however, three games separated seventh place from eighth. None of the bottom three teams in the conference reached double-digit wins on the season, and it’s tough to say that any are making great headway as far as their direction is concerned.

Amidst all of this, though, the winds of change will blow through this conference as well. Mercer and ETSU head to the Southern Conference next season, leaving the conference with eight members.

In addition, two programs changed coaches. Jacksonville parted ways with Cliff Warren after a mostly successful tenure, albeit one that didn’t yield an NCAA Tournament appearance. Tony Jasick, who the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year at IPFW this past season, was hired to replace him. Also, Kennesaw State and Lewis Preston parted ways, with former assistant Jimmy Lallathin replacing him after running the program while Preston took a leave of absence during the season.

Final Standings

A-Sun Overall
Florida Gulf Coast 14-4 22-13
Mercer 14-4 26-8
USC Upstate 11-7 19-15
ETSU 10-8 19-16
Lipscomb 10-8 15-15
North Florida 10-8 16-16
Jacksonville 8-10 12-18
Stetson 5-13 7-24
Northern Kentucky 5-13 9-21
Kennesaw State 3-15 6-25

Conference Tournament

Played entirely on campus sites, the 2014 Atlantic Sun Tournament had a pair of snoozers in the quarterfinals, with every other game being a dandy. Florida Gulf Coast blew past Stetson 77-55 and Mercer had an easy time with Jacksonville 85-64, while USC Upstate had a harder time with North Florida in an 80-74 win and ETSU needed two overtime periods to edge Lipscomb 89-88.

The semifinals saw two close ones, with home teams winning again as Florida Gulf Coast beat ETSU 69-64 and Mercer beat USC Upstate 78-75 in another double overtime game.

That set up a matchup of the top two seeds in Fort Myers, with Florida Gulf Coast attempting to get back to the NCAA Tournament for another chance in the limelight. But this time, Player of the Year Langston Hall led the way in winning tournament MVP honors by leading Mercer to a 68-60 win to capture the conference title. For the seventh time in the last 11 seasons, the No. 2 seed won the tournament.

Postseason Awards
Player of the Year: Langston Hall, Mercer
Newcomer of the Year: Jalen Riley, ETSU
Coach of the Year: Bob Hoffman, Mercer
Freshman of the Year: Dallas Moore, North Florida
Defensive Player of the Year: Daniel Coursey, Mercer

All-Conference Team
Brett Comer, Jr. G, FGCU
Torrey Craig, Sr. F, USC Upstate
Langston Hall, Sr. G, Mercer
Rashawn Rembert, Jr. G, ETSU
Bernard Thompson, Jr. G, FGCU

Season Highlights

  • Mercer beat Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, giving the conference three NCAA Tournament wins in the past two seasons.
  • An Atlantic Sun team won a postseason tournament game for the sixth straight year with Mercer’s win and ETSU winning a game in the CIT.
  • Mercer senior Langston Hall became the conference’s all-time leader in career assists, and teammate Daniel Coursey became the conference’s all-time leader in career blocked shots.

What we expected, and it happened: Florida Gulf Coast was no fluke. The Eagles had a new coach in Joe Dooley, but didn’t miss a beat and were the top seed in the conference tournament, which earned them an NIT bid after they lost in the conference championship game.

What we expected, and it didn’t happen: Jacksonville was expected to be in the first division. Instead, the Dolphins finished below .500 and were blown out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

What we didn’t expect, and it happened: Lipscomb finished in the middle of the pack. Sporting a roster with eight freshmen and sophomores along with just one senior, the Bisons were picked eighth in the preseason poll.

Team(s) on the rise: Florida Gulf Coast. Sure, the Eagles are riding high right now. But they can go higher, and Joe Dooley is continuing what Andy Enfield started. They will be clear favorites next season. Also: Lipscomb, as the Bisons return most of their young team that finished fifth this season.

Team(s) on the decline: Stetson. The Hatters lose four seniors, including their only double-digit scorer, from a team that barely made the conference tournament and got blasted in the quarterfinals.

2014-15 Conference Outlook

Florida Gulf Coast could be the signature program in this conference for some time. The Eagles will again be favorites next season, and perhaps significant ones, and the program potentially has more room to grow. Next season, they’ll bring back the likes of Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson to lead the way.

With Mercer and ETSU leaving and USC Upstate losing a lot, the next most logical contender appears to be Lipscomb, as they bring back almost everyone from this season’s team. North Florida could get in the mix, as could Jacksonville.

The conference will be smaller, and without a couple of teams that have greatly aided its profile in recent years, but the potential for postseason success once a team gets there should still be present.

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