It was only a couple of years ago that Coach Andy Enfield and the "Dunk City" Florida Gulf Coast team were blazing a path through the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, leaving a trail of stunned high seeds and thrilled fans behind them. Enfield left while the getting was good, taking the head position at USC, and only two players from that roster still attend the school. My how things change.
When FGCU comes to Cintas on December 28th, the Muskies will be coming home from their first road trip of the season and on the back of an eight-day layoff since their last game thanks to Christmas. It will also be Xavier's final non-conference game before the Big East season opens just three days later with the New Year's Eve game against Georgetown. While this represents chance for a resume win before the Atlantic Sun season for the Eagles, it should just serve as a final tuneup for X to get everything in order before ten weeks of Big East battles.
Joe Dooley took over for Andy Enfield last season, having previously spent a decade as an assitant at Kansas. Dooley was the head coach at East Carolina from 1995-99, compiling a 57-52 record there. His playing career spanned four seasons at George Washington, where he was team captain as a senior.
The Eagles struggled on offense for a lot of reasons, but being able to get layups wasn't one of them. Dooley's offense had them shooting over 44% of their shots at the rim, which was the 33rd best rate in the nation. That helps explain why they were 30th with a 52.5% mark on two-point attempts and 108th with a 51.1% EFG%. Beyond that, the Eagles were very bad at 3P%, OReb%, turnover rate, FT rate, and FT%, ranking under 200th in each of those categories. That's how you end up 264th in the nation on offensive efficiency.
FGCU's defense actually wasn't too bad, sitting at 86th in the nation. They didn't gamble for turnovers and conceded the three-point arc, but they did a good job forcing tough shots (EFG% against 47.7%) and cleaning up after misses (71.4% DReb%, 51st in the nation). It's hard to draw too many conclusions off of one year of data on a Dooley-coached team, but there's the information for you.
Other players leaving might have gotten more ink, but no departure is going to hurt like that of Chase Fieler. The 6'8" put up a game line of 13.9/7.4/1.6 on .548/.305/.706 shooting, leading the team in rebounding and sitting second in scoring and blocked shots. He was also the team's leader in ORtg by a fairly wide margin at 117.4, and he boasted a usage rate of nearly 25%.
Also leaving is graduate transfer Eric McKnight, taking with him his 6.9/5.1/0.1 averages on .663/.000/.509 (ouch) shooting. The 6'9" landed at Long Beach State for his final season of eligibility. Dajuan Graf, a 6'0" reserve guard who averaged 4.9/2.1/2.1 as the first man off the bench last year, rounds out the meaningful losses by heading to North Carolina Central, where he will sit out a year before competing.
As currently comprised, Florida Gulf Coast's roster has zero juniors.
Top scorer Bernard Thompson and his 15.1/4.1/1.7 line return. The 6'3" guard shot .430/.327/.790 last year and also led the team with a steal% of 2.8%, good for 259th in the nation. His efficiency is above average without being excellent, but he led the team in shots percentage and appeared to have the green light whenever he wanted it. He shot an impressive 44.3% on two-point jumpers last year and tends to make his own shot rather than receiving assisted buckets in the flow of the offense.
Point guard Brett Comer is also back for his senior year, bringing 13.7/2.9/5.3 on .455/.355/.635 shooting with him. He's also a 6'3" guard, though his role is more one of distribution, as his 34.1% assist rate (23rd in the nation) would attest. Comer can still be a little turnover prone, which brings down his efficiency overall, but Florida Gulf Coast leans heavily on these two players.
Rising senior wing Jamail Jones averaged a modest 8.6/5.6/1.1 on a gruesome .399/.261/.615 shooting line and was second on the team in turnovers, leading to an ORtg of 90 flat, which is honestly quite bad. His rebounding is pretty good for a man his size, especially on the defensive end (16.2% DReb%), which is about the redeeming part of his line. Rising senior forward Flip Cvjeticanin (I can't wait to hear Byron announce that) is the team's best shooter, posting a .418/.401/.741 line on his way to 6.8/2.7/0.4 per game.
Returning 6'10" center Nate Hicks is interesting in that he blocked 7% of opponents' two-point attempts when he was on the floor.
Ultra-athletic UNLV transfer Demetris Morant has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA and will be active from day one at FGCU. He redshirted a year and posted 0.6/0.5/0.2 in limited minutes last season, but the Miami native was a top 150 recruit with a reputation for being able to go get it on the glass and make spectacular plays on defense. His game was quite raw when he headed to UNLV; his impact will depend on how he has developed behind the scenes since then.
The incoming class was to be headlined by guard Zach Johnson, a three-star player who averaged 14.8/3.9/4.3 and 2.2 steals per game as a senior, but he is redshirting for undisclosed medical reasons.
Eric Moeller is a 6'11", 220-pound center transferring in from a single season at College of Central Florida. He is a solid shooter and describes himself as "a mismatch nightmare," but he also thought he could walk-on at Missouri (where things "didn't work out" before he went to Central Florida), so maybe his scouting report should be taken with a grain of salt. On a team willing to play inside out and needing shooters, he'll get every opportunity to prove his prowess from deep.
Shooting guard Christian Terrell is a 6'4" two-star recruit who boasts impressive athletic ability.
He can also shoot the ball a little bit, having featured in and occasionally won three-point shooting contests at a handful of summer tournaments. He'll need to add some muscle and work on his ball handling to compete consistently at the D1 level.
Florida Gulf Coast was a media darling a couple of years ago at the NCAA tournament. Last year's NIT bid was both more brief and more anonymous, but they have a core of experienced players that could take them a long way in the Atlantic Sun again this year. This game will come after the Christmas layoff and right before the Big East season for Xavier, so expect to see the Muskies making sure everything is working smoothly before conference play kicks off. If they let down, FGCU is capable of stealing this one from them.