Ryan Dunn is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.
- Belmont (7-4, 2-0 A-Sun)
- Campbell (6-4, 2-0 A-Sun)
- East Tennessee State (6-7, 2-0 A-Sun)
- Florida Gulf Coast (4-6, 1-0 A-Sun)
- Kennesaw State (4-7, 1-1 A-Sun)
- Lipscomb (4-7, 1-1 A-Sun)
- USC Upstate (1-10, 1-1 A-Sun)
- Stetson (2-7, 0-1 A-Sun)
- Mercer (4-7, 0-2 A-Sun)
- North Florida (4-7. 0-2 A-Sun)
- Jacksonville (1-7, 0-2 A-Sun)
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have not had much success since their transition to the Division I level to this point. However, this current stretch might be their most successful that includes one of their best wins in program history. Just the other night the Eagles knocked off Big East member DePaul in front of their home crowd. The win was the first for the Eagles against a Big East opponent. FGCU has now won four games in a row which is their longest streak since becoming a Division I member. Sophomore point guard Reggie Chambers has been stellar during the winning streak. He has won back-to-back A-Sun player of the week honors, the first player this season to do so. He along with Reed Baker and Anthony Banks can make this team a legitimate threat in the A-Sun race.
The Jacksonville Dolphins were predicted by many to win the conference this season. I had them picked second but nonetheless the Dolphins are playing bad basketball right now. They have started out league play at 0-2, losing by a combined 39 points in their first two A-Sun games to Campbell and ETSU. I thought that perhaps their brutal non-conference schedule would better prepare them for league play but that has not been the case at all. The Dolphins are only averaging 63 points per contest while giving up 78 points per game and allowing teams to shoot close to 52 percent from the floor. Their field goal percentage defense is last in the league. The Dolphins are also last in the league in assist to turnover ratio. Most thought this season could be the one for the Dolphins to finally win the league as they return four starters from last season’s runner-up team. JU still has plenty of time left to get it back together but they need to get back on track sooner rather than later.
Best of the Rest
- Belmont – After being the league’s hottest team two weeks ago, the Bruins have dropped two straight. However, the most important thing is that they are still perfect in league play as the holidays are here. Coach Rick Byrd always seems to get the very most out of his teams so I expect the Bruins to be in contention in league play.
- Campbell – The Camels came out flat against UNC-Wilmington as they fell by 20 to the Seahawks and it looked to be the start of a losing streak. However, Campbell got it back together by knocking off conference foe Jacksonville by 16 at home. The Camels are off to a nice 2-0 start to league play and that is the most important thing, but coach Robbie Laing has to be disappointed with his team’s effort against Longwood. The Lancers built a 20-point lead and held off a late Campbell run to win by eight. Campbell is still in good shape and looks to be a major contender in the A-Sun.
- ETSU – The Bucs pounded Jacksonville by 23 just a few nights ago to improve to 2-0 in the league. I wasn’t sure how the team would come out this season after losing their top two scorers from a year ago, but coach Murray Bartow has reloaded with more athleticism and speed, and has his team playing with a lot of energy. The Bucs will certainly compete at the top of the league and will be looking for their second straight A-Sun title and NCAA berth.
- Kennesaw State – The Owls have dropped three straight but all have come against formidable opponents and all have been on the road. Freshman Markeith Cummings continues to impress as he is the league’s third leading scorer at over 17 per game. With more athleticism than in years past I expect this team to make a little noise as conference play continues after the holidays.
- Lipscomb – The Bisons continue to struggle as they stumble into the holidays losers of two straight. However, those two games were against Cincinnati and Arizona. They were blown out by the Bearcats but went to overtime with ‘Zona, falling by just a point on a controversial buzzer-beater by Nic Wise. The Bisons are still dead last in the league in scoring defense (83.4 ppg) and are tenth in the conference in field goal percentage (50.6%). The defense must get better quick if Lipscomb wants to compete at the top of the league.
- Mercer – The Bears continue to struggle as they have lost two straight games. However, both losses have come to SEC heavyweights Vanderbilt and Alabama. The most disappointing part is that the Bears have not been competitive at all in those games. Mercer needs to get things rolling in a hurry as conference play is creeping up very quickly in the coming weeks.
- North Florida – The Ospreys have continued to play hard under new head coach Matthew Driscoll and have won three straight contests by knocking off Canisius and New Orleans in the Southern Miss Christmas Classic before defeating Southern Miss in the championship game. It could very well be the most successful stretch of games for UNF as a Division I member. This team plays extremely hard and teams in this league cannot sleep on them when conference play gets into full force.
- Stetson – There is really no way around but the Hatters just might be the worst team in the league at this point. Their only two wins have come against non-Division I opponents but I don’t expect too many victories from this team. Guard A.J. Smith (13.4 ppg) is the only legitimate scoring threat for the Hatters. Stetson is near the bottom of the league in just about every offensive category and I don’t expect it to get much better as conference play approaches.
- USC Upstate – The Spartans got off to a nice start at Arizona State just yesterday and only fell to the Sun Devils by nine. The Spartans have a nice starting five but are not particularly deep and that will continue to hurt them. Still, Upstate is well coached and should cause some problems in league play.
Key Upcoming Games
- Mercer @ UNC Charlotte (12/29) – Mercer has the talent to compete against high major opponents. Charlotte has gotten off to a blistering start with their only losses coming at the hands off Duke and ODU.
- Belmont @ Kansas (12/29) – An extremely tough post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s battle against the number one team in the land in Allen Fieldhouse. Belmont plays hard but they will be physically outmanned and I don’t expect it to be close.
- FGCU @ Stetson (12/29) – FGCU can join the top of the league if they can knock off the Hatters on the road. The Eagles must win games like this in order to finish in the upper tier of the league.
- Mercer @ Jacksonville (1/2) – Big conference showdown between two struggling teams. The winner can perhaps build some momentum as league play gets going. The loser may have a rough ride in the A-Sun.