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Tennessee NCAA Tournament Preview: A Quick Look At Florida Atlantic

Photo via Florida Atlantic Athletics

Tennessee is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019 after knocking off Duke in the Round of 32 Saturday afternoon in Orlando.

Florida Atlantic was the highest seeded mid major in this year’s tournament and have less losses than any remaining team in the field. They also released the best hype video of any team this country.

Here’s a quick look at the Florida Atlantic Owls.

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How Florida Atlantic Got Here

By winning a lot of games. Florida Atlantic is 33-3 and is tied with Houston for the Sweet 16 team with the fewest number of losses this season.

The Owls fell to Ole Miss in their second game of the season before losing at UAB and MTSU in Conference USA play.

But how did FAU specifically get to the Sweet 16? The Owls survived a scare against MTSU in the Conference USA Semifinals before blowing UAB out of the water in the championship game. Earning a nine-seed in the NCAA Tournament, FAU defeated Memphis in the opening round before knocking off Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 32 Sunday night.

Dusty May’s fifth FAU team has played just two power six teams this season but both were SEC teams. The Owls fell to Ole Miss before turning around and beating Florida back in November. FAU’s other top wins include North Texas (37th in KenPom), UAB (50th) and South Alabama (94th).

Where FAU Impresses

FAU’s balance is impressive. The Owls can get it done on either side of the court, ranking 30th in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency and 36th in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency.

Florida Atlantic has an effective field goal offense and defense, ranking top 25 in both categories. The CUSA Champions ability to shoot at a high percentage is even more impressive because of the type of shots they take.

The Owls are a heavy three-point shooting team, scoring 37% of their points from beyond the arc— a mark seven percentages higher than the national average. FAU shoots 36.7% from three-point range and has seven players who shoot over 30% from three-point range, each making at least 30 three-pointers this season.

FAU does a fantastic job of taking care of the basketball, turning it over on just 16% of possessions. The Owls turned it over only 16 times in their first two games in the NCAA Tournament.

Florida Atlantic is strong on the glass, particularly on the defensive end where they rank 43rd nationally. However, FAU is one of the smallest teams in the country. How its rebounding holds up against Tennessee’s size will be a major question mark.

Lastly, the Owls’ opponents assist on only 34% of their baskets— the second lowest rate in the country. Tennessee assists on 64% of its baskets as a team— the second highest rate in the country.

Where FAU Struggles

Florida Atlantic does just about everything well on the offensive end but the one area they aren’t fantastic is at the free throw line. The Owls shoot 71% from the foul line, a mark just under the national average.

It isn’t a massive issue for Florida Atlantic because they don’t get there often.

FAU is more vulnerable defensively and it starts with its limited rim protection. The Owls have just one role player taller than 6-foot-8 and sophomore center Vladislav Goldin is not a true rim protector. Florida Atlantic blocks shots on just 6.7% of possessions, a rate that ranks just 292nd nationally.

The Owls aren’t terrible at forcing turnovers but also aren’t as strong as you might think for a small, quick team. Florida Atlantic forces turnovers just under the national average and record steals right at the average.

Standout Owls

Much like Tennessee, Florida Atlantic is an extremely balanced team with no true superstar. The Owls have six players that average between 13.9 and 7.2 points per game.

6-foot-4 sophomore Johnell Davis is Florida Atlantic’s top scorer, averaging 13.9 points on 50% shooting from the field and 39% shooting from three-point range to go along with 5.4 rebounds per game. Davis totaled 29 points in the Owls Round of 32 win over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Sophomore guard Alijah Martin is Davis’ backcourt running mate, averaging 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-2 guard shoots 37% from beyond the arc.

Russian big man Victor Goldin is an effective interior scorer, totaling 10.4 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds per game.

Freshman guard Nicholas Boyd is perhaps FAU’s best shooter, making 40% of his three-point attempts on his way to 8.9 points per game.

Michael Forrest is FAU’s senior leader on the court where he averages 8.4 points per game on 34% shooting from three-point range.

Junior guard Bryan Greenlee gives the Owls yet another three-point shooter after making 39% of his perimeter shots this season.

Sophomore power forward Giancarlo Rosada is the only big man besides Goldin that earns consistent minutes. Rosada scores 5.9 points and grabs 3.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game and was critical scoring 15 points in FAU’s win over Memphis.

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