Florida Gulf Coast (0-0, 0-0) at Nebraska (0-0, 0-0)
9:00 PM EST
Line: Nebraska -2.5
Series Record: Nebraska leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Nebraska won 51-50 (2011)
Blog Representation: Corn Nation
Last time we checked in on Florida Gulf Coast they weren't Florida Gulf Coast, or even FGCU. They were simply Dunk City (or Florida Dunk City). Everyone loves a Cinderella and a good underdog story, but what happens when the underdog is a team full of players showboating and having the absolute times of their lives, all at the expense of teams seemingly superior to them? You get one of the year's best stories and one of the tourney's most entertaining teams to watch.
This Florida Gulf Coast team is not the same team. That's the cold reality, though they're not far removed. And regardless of where they end up in 2013-14, I will always remember sitting in my room and watching Georgetown start to claw their way back when all of a sudden:
There is still a bit of a hangover that will likely bring in some attention to FGCU early in the season before everyone forgets about them again until March. Of course if the Eagles win the Atlantic Sun and end up back in the tournament, all the hype will likely reemerge. And for what it's worth, the Eagles seem like the early favorite to win the Atlantic Sun. There's some obvious questions about how the team will handle the hype, the loss of coach Andy Enfield (who left for USC) and star Sherwood Brown, their leading scorer. But on the flip side, 'Dunk City' does return four starters and adds Marquette transfer Jamail Jones and Georgia Tech transfer Nate Hicks. While the Eagles might not be as good as last season, the cupboard isn't bare and there's enough here for new coach Joey Dooley to make some noise.
So that brings us to tonight's match-up versus Nebraska, which is highly interesting for a variety of reasons. First off, this is the Cornhuskers first game at their new home, Pinnacle Bank Arena. The stadium is supposed to be absolutely beautiful and shows that Nebraska is (finally) willing to invest in their basketball program. Even more interesting is that their $179 million investment has already sold out it's season tickets allotment, a 95% increase from last season. Even if Nebraska remains at the bottom of the Big Ten again, it seems like the team will have the full support of the surrounding area.
The game also kicks off head coach Tim Miles second season in Lincoln. The former Colorado State head coach is young, well liked and is seen as the guy who could bring Nebraska to basketball relevance. He also provides us gems like this:
@FauxPelini wait. Don't go too fast, I'm writing this down— Tim Miles (@CoachMiles) November 8, 2013
Of course one has to wonder how patient the school will be with the rebuilding process, especially when you take into consideration the money being spent into a historically atrocious basketball program. The talent level is definitely improving in Lincoln, that's for sure, but the experience is simply not there yet. And with the Cornhuskers facing off against a FGCU school with a high amount of confidence, that inexperience could be costly to a Nebraska team that would highly benefit from a win in their opener. The last time these two teams faced it came down to a winning basket with about ten seconds left, this year one has to feel like the momentum is actually in favor of the mid-major darling Florida Gulf Coast.
If Nebraska wants to improve on last year a win here is more or less required. Their non-conference schedule doesn't do them many favors as they could be an underdog in all three games of the Charleston Classic, as well as their games against Miami, Creighton and Cincinnati. And then the Cornhuskers will once again likely find themselves over matched in conference play, so Miles will have to pick up as many wins he can in the first two months if Nebraska wants some sort of post-season appearance (CBI or NIT most likely if they can get there).
Either way, while St. Johns and Wisconsin will likely be the 'biggest' game of the night, the most exciting game for me tonight is easily the matchup between Dunk City and a bunch of scrappy Cornhuskers. The game will be airing on BTN at 9 PM EST so kick your weekend off with some good ol' fashion college basketball, halftime tweets and plenty of dunks.