A-Sun Championship Preview

*photo credit to Void Live*

Billy and Caleb are both graduates of the University of North Florida and damn proud of it. On Sunday, March 8th, UNF will face USC Upstate in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship for the opportunity to punch their ticket to the madness later this month. 

The game will be at 2:30 on ESPN 2, but before tip off, what should we expect?

North Florida only lost twice in conference play– both of those losses? To South Carolina Upstate. Despite the seeding and home court advantage, should the Ospreys feel like a bit of an underdog?

UNF is still the favorite. According to kenpom.com, the Ospreys are the 121st best team in the country, while USC Upstate is rated 178th. Upstate is a talented team with the player of the year in the A-Sun, Ty Greene, but top to bottom, the Ospreys definitely have a better rotation. But there is no doubt that the Ospreys will have revenge on their mind. Upstate is the only Atlantic Sun opponent who has been able to beat UNF this year, and they did it twice. Both games have been close at halftime and then Upstate has pulled away, led by Greene. Both teams will be highly energized and I’d bet a little nervous, playing with a chance to go to the dance on the line.

Ty Greene is the conference player of the year. He is averaging 32.5 points in the two victories against the Ospreys so far this year. Is stopping Greene the key to an Osprey victory on Sunday?

Stopping Greene is an absolute must for the Ospreys if they want to grab this title. Though UNF’s defense isn’t the greatest, they can hold their own inside when they need to. Where they hurt themselves is their unwillingness to close out. Ty Greene has range and can shoot several feet behind the  three point line so the Ospreys need to 1) avoid going under screens and 2) close out as soon as Greene has the ball. Dallas Moore is probably the best option to defend because of his speed, but I won’t be surprised if Beech or BaeBae Daniels are assigned to Greene because of their length. Stop Greene and the rest will fall into place for UNF.

In the semifinals, Dallas Moore dominated possessions. It seemed to work for the Ospreys, but should we expect to see more of the same from UNF on Sunday?

Dallas Moore played the game of his career on Thursday night in the win against Lipscomb. He scored 36 points in a game where the rest of the Ospreys struggled to score. He was the UNF offense and without his performance the Ospreys may be preparing for the NIT already. But if Dallas has to carry the offense alone on Sunday, I think Coach Eddie Payne and the Spartans will be celebrating when the buzzer sounds. Moore has shot 7-26 in the two losses to USC Upstate this season. A big reason why he has uncharacteristically been held in check is the men who have been guarding him, Upstate senior guards Ty Greene and Fred Miller. They do a really good job of staying in front of Moore and making him force contested shots. I think Coach Matthew Driscoll would like to see a more balanced scoring attack on Sunday afternoon from his club and not rely so heavily on Dallas to provide all the points.

Both teams are playing in the biggest games in their programs history. Do you expect to see the added pressure have any effect on the teams?

I imagine that if either team doesn’t hit their shots early on, we may see a low scoring affair, but either way, once the tip is up, the players may find themselves playing as if it is any other game. For Upstate, the pressure of a championship performance may force the ball into the hands of their guards, especially Ty Greene.

In the semifinals against Lipscomb, the Ospreys found themselves in a tighter game than they should have because of some sloppy play down the stretch. If the pressure does anything for UNF, it may force some bad passes inside that lead to transition play for Upstate. The Ospreys will have to be a little more patient than they may like if they want to avoid those kind of turnovers.

Any bold claims you want to make for Sunday’s Championship game?

Billy I think it will be a high scoring affair between UNF and Upstate. Both teams like to get up and go in transition, and both teams struggle on the defensive side of the ball. So my bold claim is that we will see at least 4 players total have over 20 points in the game. I think the final scores end up in the high 70s or low 80s. Now since you said bold claims I will try to take it one step further and name the four guys who I believe will score 20+ on Sunday. For the Ospreys, Beau Beech and Chris Davenport. For the Spartans, Ty Greene and ShunQuez Stephens.

Another prediction: UNF Arena sets a new attendance record on Sunday and it provides a raucous atmosphere for the A-Sun Final.

Caleb I only have one real bold prediction and it’s that I think the Ospreys will shoot 60% from three. Beach Beech was 1 for 10 last game and the team as a whole seemed to struggle from deep. They call themselves #BirdsOfTrey for a reason… and I think Beau and company will make it a point to hit from outside.

Another prediction: This game will produce TWO Sportscenter Top 10 plays. At least one will be a repeat appearance for Chris Davenport.

Who you got winning the Atlantic Sun?

Billy The city of Jacksonville will have a team in the tournament for the first time since 1982. I think the Ospreys punch their ticket to the big dance in a tight one throughout, winning 83-77.

Caleb You’re going to hear a lot of Swooping come March Madness time. It’ll be close and UNF Arena will be quiet at times… but the Ospreys win this one 77-70.

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