NCAA Final Four: Get To Know Florida Atlantic University Owls
First the Cougars, then the Paladins. This Saturday will the clock strike midnight for the Cinderella Owls as they face the Aztecs?
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FAU coach Dusty May cried after signing with the Owls. Now, his team’s in the Final Four. Well done, Baby Wawa!
Houston, TX – It’s the 2023 NCAA Tournament Final Freaking Four, and the Mountain West’s San Diego State Aztecs are South Region champions. While most SDSU fans believed a deep run was possible, it seems entirely unreal nonetheless. Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs are legitimate contenders.
The Florida Atlantic University Owls (35-3) prevailed as champions of the Eastern Region. They take on San Diego State Aztecs (31-6) in the Final Four at the NRG Arena in Houston, Texas, on Saturday, April 1st at 6:09 p.m. CST.
A lot of NCAA basketball enthusiasts asked, “Who are the FAU OWLS?” Well, now you know. It’s the university you’ve never heard of that just wrecked your world and got further in March than most college programs ever will.
Before getting into the Owls’ roster, we need to evaluate this mascot. When you think Florida, you think manatees, gators, dolphins, hurricanes, pirates, tuna, jaguars- maybe even herons.
But- the Owl? It’s about as fitting as the St. Louis Billikins, or the UNC School of Arts Fighting Pickle. The appropriate response to “The Owls” was, fittingly, “Who?” Pun intended.
In reality, these aren’t cuddly old owls. They are giant, nasty, condor-sized, man-eaters, with blood dripping from their killer beaks, and talons with velociraptor-like claws. They are predators who kill at will on the basketball court, mercilessly. Don’t let the unassuming mascot fool you.
In FAU’s Elite Eight battle against Kansas State, the Owls rallied from a seven-point second-half deficit, to get past the Wildcats. The Owls sank three’s under the gun and looked to 7’1″ Russian sophomore center Vladislav Goldin to pick apart K-State defense. Goldin’s is actually from the same town as boxer Ivan Drago.
FAU made 54.8 percent their field goals (17/31) making 81.8 percent of its free throws (18/22). The Owls’ once again displayed balanced shooting with four starters scoring double digits. Against the nation’s fourth-rated defense per, having multiple players who can break out is crucial in FAU’s hope of advancing to the title game.
For FAU to prevail, it will need leading scorers 6’4″ sophomore guard Johnell Davis (13.9 ppg, 49.3 FG%) and 6’2″ sophomore guard Alijah Martin (13.1 ppg, 43.4 FG%) keep pace against the Aztecs. In their Sweet Sixteen victory over Tennessee, the Owls’ scored 1.07 points per possession against the nation’s most efficient defense. It’s possible they could overcome the Aztecs’ fourth-rated defense. FAU will also look to guards 6′ junior guard Bryan Greenlee (7.4 ppg, 41.8 FG%) and 6’3″ freshman guard Nicholas Boyd (8.9 ppg, 44.7 FG%) to produce, along with Goldin (10.3 ppg, 62.7 FG%) working the interior.
FAU’s guard-heavy roster has managed to shoot 36.5% behind the arc this season, however SDSU’s three-point defense will cause the Owls to fall short of that average. The Aztecs are holding opponents to a 27.8% average, and that number is even lower in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama was held to three-of-27 shooting from deep (11.1%) and most recently they limited Creighton to two-of-17 shooting from three (11.8%).
If FAU struggles to make three pointers, it will force them to feed the ball to Goldin, and we will then see him and Nathan Mensah battling things out in the paint on Saturday.
The Owls are a major threat and they have defied the odds repeatedly. Will elite Aztec defense cause the clock to strike midnight on another Cinderella, or will the Aztecs meet their match? Time will tell. Either way, Huge
Congratulations to Brian Dutcher and the SDSU Aztecs, and Dusty May and the FAU Owls for reaching the Final Four, an epic success in itself.