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Can Florida Atlantic bounce again subsequent yr?

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 event to blitzing by their schedule, the Owls served wake-up calls to each one in all their opponents en path to the Remaining 4.

Sadly, Dusty Might’s staff obtained hit by the Sandman within the closing 14 minutes of their nationwide semifinal matchup in opposition to 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.

Might 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witnessing the demise of Bobby Knight firsthand, however Might’s teaching demeanor was an entire 180 from the cranky outdated coot who retired because the winningest coach in males’s school basketball historical past. In the actual world although, Might doesn’t depend on his assistants to cowl up for his incompetence.

Even after the loss, Might was lamenting the lack of senior Michael Forrest and shelling 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,” Might informed Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

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

Like his fictional AFC Richmond counterpart, Might did look overseas — for the muse 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 event over a dozen occasions by now and the Aztecs must be receiving a Pac-12 invitation any second now.

Future prospects

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

They’ve obtained all of the substances, together with a cohesive ensemble solid returning. Most fashionable packages are an anthology of disconnected groups, trotting out utterly new rosters for each new chapter. FAU’s complete rotation has eligibility remaining in 2023. If they might storm by 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 kind one-year surprise. They had been an undersold 9-seed, who ought to have been larger. Earlier than the event, they had been nonetheless thought-about the high mid-major within the discipline of 68 in keeping with Pivot Evaluation, had been ranked within the AP Ballot’s closing high 25, and are a top-20 staff in keeping with KenPom’s adjusted offense and defensive system. If Might had left for greener pastures, you possibly can relaxation assured that Johnell Davis and 7-footer Vladimir Goldin can be coming with him.

Might’s teaching type would possibly lean into mawkishness, however it molded FAU right into a staff with arguably the perfect on-court chemistry in school basketball. Not dangerous for a program that was taking part in in its first NCAA Match ever.

They at all times 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.

Nonetheless, not a single participant from FAU will probably 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 must be enticed by the prospect of taking part in on that Boca Raton campus for a yr and FAU’s NIL collective raked within the dough they beforehand lacked. They’ll additionally be capable of assure publicity beneath a extra conspicuous highlight than the one they operated beneath 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 obtained 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. Might seems to be on board for one more run after declining to hop into the teaching carousel. That is probably not the case in 2024 if the Florida or Florida State jobs re-opens. After all, he received’t stay a sizzling title without end in teaching circles if FAU stumbles early subsequent season. This yr wasn’t Florida Atlantic’s time and Might’s skilled ascension is barely simply starting, however this is probably not the final time we see them on the Remaining 4 stage.

Observe DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex



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