When people see the Atlantic Sun Conference, they may think that the conference has a bunch of no name schools that will never make any noise in the big dance. Those people would have mistakenly forgotten “Lob City.” That’s right, the 2012-2013 Florida Gulf Coast squad that made the Sweet 16 as a 15 seed, upsetting #2 Georgetown and #7 San Diego State along the way. That “Lob City” team was the Atlantic Sun champions that year. The year after that, Mercer (who was in the ASUN at the time) upset #2 Duke to move on to the round of 32. Finally and most recently, in 2019, the #12 seed Liberty Flames upset #5 Mississippi State in the first round of the tournament. The conference is very competitive this season with five teams posting an above .500 record in conference play. The winner could very well do the same thing as the teams listed did in the past. Here is my breakdown of the Atlantic Sun Conference and my predictions for seeding for the future. Note: All stats and records are as of 2/6.
1) Kennesaw State (18-7 Overall, 10-2 Conference)
Overview: Following a 13-18 season last year that had them in the middle of the pack in the conference, the Owls returned six of their seven top scorers from last season. They are playing well together, and it has shown bounds within the conference on the year. They have won by double digits in over half of their conference contests this season, and have made their mark on the standings in the conference. With an average of 74.0 ppg, the Owls are second in the conference in scoring and are 92nd in college basketball. Outside of stats, Kennesaw State has shown they are a school that you should consider betting on as well, with the 7th best ATS record in all of college basketball. Three starters are averaging double figures for the Owls in guards Chris Youngblood and Terrell Burden and forward Demond Robinson averaging 14.5, 13.0 and 10.4 ppg respectively. If the Owls can compete in their tough final stretch of games in the regular season, they will find themselves as the top seed for the conference tournament.
2) Liberty (19-6 Overall, 10-2 Conference)
Overview: The Flames are going to be dangerous coming down the stretch of the regular season and into the conference tournament for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, this is a deafening defense that will wear down any team that crosses their path in the conference. Liberty is giving up only 60.6 ppg, which not only is the best in the conference but also the 8th best in the entire country. On top of that phenomenal defense, the Flames also have two-time Atlantic Sun Player of the Year in guard Darius McGhee back for his final season. His numbers this season are pointing to him winning another Player of the Year trophy, as McGhee is averaging 20.8 ppg (leading conference), 1.6 spg (3rd in conference) and is shooting 41.2% from 3. He has been tough for even the better teams in the conference to stop this year, and his play is going to be crucial for the remaining games the Flames play this season. Liberty’s defense is going to win them a ton of games this season, and adding McGhee to the mix makes this squad a very tough school to win against.
3) Eastern Kentucky (16-9 Overall, 9-3 Conference)
Overview: Despite having a slightly worse record than the two teams above them, the Colonels have had a very solid season in the conference thus far. They have taken down Liberty, split games with Kennesaw State, and defeated a talented Stetson squad by 15 points. A tough out of conference schedule that saw them taking on Tennessee, Cincinnati, and James Madison sealed their fate in a few of their non-conference games. The Colonels have not let that out of conference play slow them down in the conference, and they have a talented upperclassmen leading the way for the team in junior guard Devontae Blanton. This is the first season that Blanton is a full-time starter for the Colonels, and he is taking advantage of it by averaging 16.2 ppg (5th in conference) and 6.5 rpg. Forward Michael Moreno and guard Leland Walker are also averaging 11.9 and 10.0 ppg respectively to help alleviate pressure from Blanton. This Colonels team has already beaten the best in the conference this year, and have talent in the frontcourt and the backcourt. This is why Eastern Kentucky is my pick to win the ASUN.
4) Stetson (13-10 Overall, 8-4 Conference)
Overview: Much like Kennesaw State, Stetson was at the bottom of the ASUN last year with an 11-19 overall record and a 5-11 conference record. This season, they are one of the teams you should be betting on, as the Hatters are not only one of the best teams at covering the spread this year but also at covering totals. A huge difference between this year’s Hatters squad compared to last year is the overall offensive talent. Last season, only three players were averaging more than 8 ppg. This season, five players are averaging at least nine points, and the ability to score the basketball is much more spread out this season. A big reason for this increased production on offense is the Grand Canyon transfer acquisition of Jalen Blackmon. The second-year player is leading the team with 14.3 ppg while also shooting a very impressive 93% (53 of 57) from the free throw line. This Hatters squad is out to prove that not only are they one of the most improved teams in the conference but also are one of the best teams overall in the conference this season.
5) Lipscomb (15-10 Overall, 7-5 Conference)
Overview: It has been a major roller coaster to say the least for the Bisons this season. They have some quality wins in the conference over Liberty and Eastern Kentucky, and they also played some very close contests against Notre Dame (lost by one) and Michigan (lost by 9). Those high points of the season should have given them momentum going forward, but unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case with some bad conference losses to Jacksonville and Jacksonville State. Although the season itself has been a roller coaster, the Bisons’ star forward Jacob Ognacevic, has stayed consistent. The sophomore forward is leading the team with 16.0 ppg, while also hauling in 4.1 rpg. Their senior big man, Ahsahn Asudallah, is doing all of the dirty work down low for the Bisons, leading the team with 6.0 rpg and 3.3 apg. Their win against Liberty was their most recent win, so that momentum may carry them through the rest of the year. Nevertheless, consistency needs to get worked on if Lipscomb wants any chance of making a deep run in the conference tournament.
6) North Alabama (14-11 Overall, 6-6 Conference)
Overview: The Lions are the textbook definition of a team that wins against teams worse than them and loses to teams better than them. All six of North Alabama’s conference wins have come to schools lower than them in the standings, and all six of their losses in the conference have come to teams above them in the standings. Five of their six losses in the conference have also come by double figures, so the point can be taken a step further: The Lions are either winning the game or losing by a ton. The backcourt trio of Daniel Ortiz, KJ Johnson, and Jacari Lane are keeping the Lions afloat, averaging 13.8, 11.9, and 11.3 ppg respectively. The good news for those that are fans of North Alabama is that the team is very young. There is not a single senior on this team and only three juniors. Consistency will come, and if they stay together, North Alabama could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. However, the Lions need to find a way to beat a superior team if they want to make it far in the postseason.
7) Florida Gulf Coast (14-11 Overall, 4-8 Conference)
Overview: Many who pay attention to the Atlantic Sun may look at this and wonder how I have Florida Gulf Coast as high as I do in the seeding. First and foremost, I think FGC, Jacksonville, and North Florida can be intermixed with each other in terms of seeding. Currently, the Eagles have conference wins over both Jacksonville and North Florida, giving them an advantage in terms of tiebreaker. This is also a squad that has some solid rebounders, as two of the top five leading rebounders in the conference are on the Eagles this season in forward Zach Anderson and center Andre Weir, averaging 7.3 and 6.9 rpg respectively. Finally, they have a very talented guard guiding the team this season in senior Isaiah Thompson. The fourth year man is leading the team in 14.7 ppg and is shooting 39.9% from behind the arc this season. The next two games are going to be telling as to where the Eagles will be seeded in the conference tournament, as they play both North Florida and Jacksonville. If they can win both games, they will have secured this seven seed as a floor and have an even higher ceiling for seeding as well.
8) North Florida (10-14 Overall, 5-7 Conference)
Overview: The Ospreys have a big advantage going into the regular season in their sweeping of Jacksonville. If anything ever gets close between the two teams, North Florida will have the advantage. The team has had a major high point this season, as they have upset Kennesaw State at home by three points to give them their first of two conference losses this season. Offense is no issue for the Ospreys this season, as they are scoring 72.5 ppg (119th in CBB). They have a very talented forward in senior Carter Hendrickson leading the charge for the Ospreys with an average of 16.5 ppg and 6.3 rpg. The backcourt of guards Jose Placer and Jarius Hicklen keep the pressure off of Hendrickson, as they are averaging 13.7 and 11.3 ppg respectively. The reason they are having as little success as they are is their defense. The Ospreys are giving up 79.5 ppg on the season, 13th worst in the NCAA. Their sweeping of Jacksonville will likely keep them in the conference tournament, but it doesn’t appear they will get past the first round when they get there.
9) Jacksonville (12-11 Overall, 5-7 Conference)
Overview: In terms of comparing offensive and defensive stats, the Dolphins are the complete opposite of North Florida. Jacksonville is very solid defensively this season, giving up only 65.7 ppg, 2nd behind only Liberty in the conference and 55th overall. They have been able to hold teams below their average points per game consistently, and their defense has won them the games that they have won this year. The reason that the Dolphins are struggling record-wise this season is due to their offense. To put it bluntly, their offense is one of the worst offenses in college football. Jacksonville is scoring 61.9 ppg this season, 19th worst in college basketball. Their leading scorer is senior guard Kevion Nolan, who is averaging 12.9 ppg and 4.6 apg (3rd in conference). Junior forward Mike Marsh rounds out their double digit scorers, as he averages 10.8 ppg. The offense needs to emerge if the Dolphins want a chance at a higher seed before the conference tournament begins.
10) Jacksonville State (10-15 Overall, 3-9 Conference)
Overview: To round out our schools that will likely make the conference tournament, we have the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State. With a big win over Austin Peay and a deciding game with Central Arkansas coming up, the Gamecocks have a narrow advantage over the other teams to get into the tournament. Offense has been a struggle for them this season, as Jacksonville State is only averaging 65.1 ppg (313th in NCAA). They are also giving up 71.1 ppg (212th in NCAA), so the Gamecocks are getting outscored by an average of six points per game. The backcourt of Demaree King and Skyelar Potter is what is keeping the Gamecocks afloat this season, as the duo is averaging 14.1 and 13.7 ppg respectively with the next highest scoring player averaging only 8.1 ppg. If Jacksonville State can find a way to defeat Central Arkansas, they are nearly a shoe-in to get into the conference tournament, but if they lose, they may very well be watching the conference tournament from their couches at home.
The Remaining Teams
11) Central Arkansas (8-17 Overall, 3-9 Conference): The Bears offense is solid and have one of the best scorers in the conference in guard Camren Hunter (17.0 ppg – 2nd in conference). Unfortunately, they also have one of the worst defenses in the country giving up 83.1 ppg (4th worst in CBB), and that is going to hurt them enough to have them miss the conference tournament.
12) Austin Peay (8-17 Overall, 2-10 Conference): Unfortunately for the Governors, they simply have not been in any of their games this season outside of their two conference wins with seven of their ten losses on year coming by double digits. With an offense that only scores 63.8 ppg and gives up 73.0 ppg, a rebuild and move on to next year plan is likely what is to be in store for the coaching staff now.
Ineligible – Queens (N.C) (16-9 Overall, 6-6 Conference): The Royals are ineligible for the postseason, as they are in the NCAA transition process since joining from Division II this season. Queens has been very impressive in their first season in the Atlantic Sun, notching six wins in the conference in their first season. If they continue to grow from the NCAA transition, the Royals are going to be a fun team to watch in the ASUN moving forward.
Ineligible – Bellarmine (11-14 Overall, 6-6 Conference): The Knights are ineligible for the postseason, as they are in their third season of the NCAA transition process. Much like Queens, Bellarmine has impressed several schools in the conference and is posting a 6-6 overall record. Time will tell if they stick with the conference or go somewhere else, but if they stick around in the conference, they are going to make these already established schools compete for their spot in the conference tournament.
There are some exciting teams that are sitting at the top of the Atlantic Sun this season. Each of those top teams have players that could be March Madness stars if their school advances to the big dance. It is likely going to be one of the top three teams that will advance to March Madness, but if a school lower than three advances, they could very well make a Cinderella run too. Oftentimes schools that go into March Madness on a hot streak are the ones that make the upsets, and the ASUN has some schools that could be those bracket busting teams. Look to watch the ASUN Conference Tournament, at least the championship, to see these schools for yourself and determine if they are talented enough for you to put them as an upset on your bracket this March!