June 9, 2023

Can Florida Atlantic bounce back next year?

Lamont Butler’s dagger as the buzzer sounded in Houston was a coup de grâce to Florida Atlantic’s storybook time. From currently being picked fifth in the preseason conference event to blitzing by way of their schedule, the Owls served wake-up calls to just about every and each individual just one of their opponents en route to the Closing 4.

Regretably, Dusty May’s group got hit by the Sandman in the closing 14 minutes of their nationwide semifinal matchup against San Diego Condition, obtaining outscored 30-15, which includes Butler’s buzzer-beater. The decline was specially painful for FAU simply because the area had been cleared of prime seeds and the storyline felt like a thing stolen out of a Ted Lasso script.

May well had a Ted Lasso quality to him. It’s possible it is a consequence of being a college student manager witnessing the demise of Bobby Knight firsthand, but May’s coaching demeanor was a finish 180 from the cranky aged coot who retired as the winningest mentor in men’s school basketball historical past. In the true earth while, May does not count on his assistants to protect up for his incompetence.

Even soon after the reduction, May well was lamenting the decline of senior Michael Forrest and dispensing saccharine mentor-ism sentiments you’d discover at the conclusion of a sitcom.

“In this era, it is difficult to discover fantastic teammates and we have a locker place total of them,” Might instructed Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

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

Like his fictional AFC Richmond counterpart, May well did glance overseas — for the foundation of his coaching philosophy. He’s spoken at length this period about how his offense derived from the Euro-ball that emphasized ball motion, participant motion, and an egalitarian share of the scoring load. It is uncommon to see 1 ball handler or scorer dominate FAU’s possessions.

As fantastic of a tale as San Diego Condition is, it is not as juicy since they’ve shed their mid-main aura. They’ve been to the tournament above a dozen situations by now and the Aztecs need to be getting a Pac-12 invitation any moment now.

Upcoming prospects

The Closing 4 does not have to be the sequence finale for FAU’s limited-operate series. So what will it acquire to carry the Owls show back for a period two run to the Final 4?

They’ve received all the components, which includes a cohesive ensemble solid returning. Most present day plans are an anthology of disconnected groups, trotting out wholly new rosters for every single new chapter. FAU’s complete rotation has eligibility remaining in 2023. If they could storm by their agenda and into the NCAA Match as the strongest mid-key in the place, there’s absolutely nothing halting them from building a repeat operate employing Saturday’s reduction as motivation.

FAU was not a Saint Peter’s style a single-12 months marvel. They had been an undersold 9-seed, who should really have been greater. In advance of the match, they have been still deemed the top mid-important in the subject of 68 in accordance to Pivot Investigation, had been ranked in the AP Poll’s remaining major 25, and are a leading-20 group in accordance to KenPom’s altered offense and defensive system. If May perhaps had still left for greener pastures, you can rest certain that Johnell Davis and 7-footer Vladimir Goldin would be coming with him.

May’s coaching design may possibly lean into mawkishness, but it molded FAU into a crew with arguably the very best on-court docket chemistry in faculty basketball. Not negative for a software that was taking part in in its first NCAA Match ever.

They normally observed the open man, the rock under no circumstances stopped and their higher IQ off-ball actions slid them into opportune scoring positions. Down the extend while, college basketball’s AFC Richmond needed a Zava, a playmaking virtuoso who could hotwire the offense when they snapped into a funk. UConn has a couple of these offensive cheat codes that can crack out and conclusion a dry spell. San Diego State’s defense was their trump card.

Having said that, not a one participant from FAU will be drafted in the 1st round of the upcoming NBA Draft. Their whole is larger than the sum of their elements. Most likely they even glimpse into the transfer portal for an update or to switch Forrest. Some grad transfer has to be enticed by the prospect of playing on that Boca Raton campus for a yr and FAU’s NIL collective raked in the dough they earlier lacked. They’ll also be capable to warranty publicity beneath a more conspicuous highlight than the one they operated less than the radar in this season.

Or they’ll run it back with the similar team and their incoming freshman class. A dozen yrs back, Brad Stevens and Butler built a repeat excursion to the Final 4 and even innovative to the countrywide championship activity the 12 months just after Gordon Hayward was drafted.

A 12 months just after 9-seed Wichita Condition received a sniff of the Final 4, they embarked on an undefeated regular season demolition tour. The throughline between FAU, Wichita Condition, and Butler are their professional rosters creating an addiction to trouncing foes and retaining the mentor who instilled that winning lifestyle. May possibly appears to be on board for another run right after declining to hop into the coaching carousel. That may possibly not be the case in 2024 if the Florida or Florida Condition employment re-opens. Of class, he won’t keep on being a very hot identify without end in coaching circles if FAU stumbles early future time. This yr was not Florida Atlantic’s time and May’s skilled ascension is only just beginning, but this might not be the past time we see them on the Ultimate Four stage.

Observe DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex