Both the FGCU men’s and women’s teams are well on their way to locking up the regular season titles in the Atlantic Sun.
In the men’s case, they’re so far ahead, three games up on second place Jacksonville, that clinching the title could come as early as this weekend. The women are a game up on Jacksonville, with the tie-breaker in hand.
So for those who were looking for the drama-filled final weeks of the regular season that have been seen in past years – especially that absurd final day in 2016 – you’ll probably be feeling a little let down.
Really, the story has to be this men’s program. Be honest: after they were routed by Rhode Island on Dec. 27 and fell to 7-8, did you see this coming?
The Eagles(18-8, 9-0 ASUN) could lock up, at minimum, a share of the conference on Thursday with a win against NJIT(12-12, 5-4) in Newark and a loss by Jacksonville(12-14, 6-3) to Lipscomb(15-9, 5-4).
To be fair, NJIT isn’t an easy out. The Eagles struggled at times with the Highlanders in their 68-54 win at home on Jan. 13, and basketball analytics service KenPom marks this as FGCU’s hardest remaining game, giving the Eagles a 66 percent chance to win.
NJIT also just knocked off Lipscomb in Nashville on Saturday, with an 81-77 come from behind victory.
In that Jan. 13 game, the Highlanders were playing with an injured Abdul Lewis, still recovering from a hip injury. Now healthy, Lewis has been lighting it up, with double figure scoring in five of his last six, including 27 points and 13 rebounds against Lipscomb.
FGCU vs. NJIT
Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Wellness and Events Center, Newark N.J.
SMESKO: GAME 600 IS NO DIFFERENT THAN 601
After his Eagles pulled away late from pesky North Florida to win 67-52 on Tuesday, Karl Smesko was asked about being honored by the program for his 600th game.
“To be honest, I don’t think about it very much,” Smesko said. “It’s a nice gesture, I didn’t know they were going to do that before the game.”
Smesko won in that 600th career came, obviously, like he has most of the games in his career. Smesko’s career coaching record is 487-113 – that’s wins in just over 81 percent of them – 426 of them in 16 season at FGCU.
In fact, he’s the fourth-winningest active basketball coach in Division I, behind such names as Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, Baylor’s Kim Mulkey, and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer.
Not that he’ll say anything about it, obviously.
“I’m one that –“Eagles senior China Dow interjects the word humble, “– I’m not going to bring it up,” Smesko said. “It’s about the game that we were going to play that day. To me 600 is no different than 601.”
Instead it was Dow that heaped on the praise of her coach.
“You can put him up there with Geno,” Dow said.
“It means a lot to be coached by him. If you’ve got a guy that’s got this kind of record and you can be coached under him it’s fun,” Dow said, only for Smesko to interject this time.
“Did you say it was fun to be coached by me?” Smesko asked with a smile.
“He’s a cool guy sometimes,” Dow said with a laugh. “It’s amazing the things that he’s done for this program.”
Game 601 is against USC-Upstate on Saturday.
View from the Nest is a series of stories, analysis, and tidbits from FGCU beat writer R.J. Roan that don’t fit anywhere else. Follow R.J. on Twitter @ByRJRoan for live updates and analysis during FGCU basketball games all season long.
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