Florida Gulf Coast Rules The Atlantic Sun Conference
Howard Smith - USA Today Sports

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, who are commonly known as Dunk City, took the NCAA basketball nation by storm during the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

As a 15-seed in the South Region, the Eagles made a Cinderella-style run through the tournament, in what was their first-ever berth in the big dance. The Eagles upended the #2 Georgetown Hoyas, 78 - 68, and then ousted the 7-seed San Diego State Aztecs, 81 - 71, to advance to the Sweet 16. The run the Eagles, like all good things in life, would eventually come to an end. The Eagles lost to the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16, 62 - 50.

Despite the loss to the Florida Gators, everyone took notice of the Eagles. SInce the 2013 Tournament, Florida Gulf Coast has become one of the premier mid-major programs in the country. 

Over the past two seasons, the Eagles have had to battle with the Mercer Bears atop the Atlantic Sun standings. In 2012-13, the Eagles finished 2nd in the standings, put won the conference tournament to secure the tournament berth. This past season, the Eagles and Bears tied for 1st in the conference, with sparking 14 - 4 records. The Bears went on to win the conference tournament, and the Eagles had to settle for a berth in the 2014 NIT.

In the 2014 NIT, the Eagles were an 8-seed, and took on the Florida State Seminoles in the first round. The Seminoles would prove to be too much, besting the Eagles 58 - 53.

Despite their opening round loss, the Eagles had another successful season in 2013-14. Over the past two years, the Eagles have compiled a 48 - 24 overall record, with a dazzling 27 - 9 record in conference play. Two post-season tournament berths in two years isn't a bad thing, either.

Fast forward to the upcoming 2014-15 season, and the Eagles are again predicted to be atop the Atlantic Sun standings. However, one thing will be different this year: the Mercer Bears are gone from the conference. Without Mercer to contend with at the top of the standings, the Eagles are now the team to beat in the conference.

Looking at this year's roster for the Eagles, they have a bunch of returning players who have a ton of experience in the post-season from playing with the Eagles. Guards Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson were both on the Eagles' team in 2013 when they made their run to the Sweet 16. 

Six players total return from last season's team that made it to the NIT.

Comer and Thompson will be the leaders for the team this season. Thompson was the Eagles' leading scorer a season ago, averaging 15.1 points per contest to go along with 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. 

Comer was the team's third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 13.7 points per contest. The biggest thing that he brings to the team is his ability to distribute the ball. Last season, he averaged 5.3 assists, and he will be looked upon to be the team's leader once again.

Filip Cvjeticanin averaged 6.8 points and 2.7 rebounds last season, but is going to miss the entire 2014-15 season due to injury.

Their non-conference schedule will provide the team with some early tests, as they have two games against Alan Williams and the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, and tough road dates at Massachusetts, Iona, Xavier, and Pittsburgh. Their tough non-conference slate should better prepare them for the season ahead, and hopefully a post-season run.

Florida Gulf Coast seems poised to make it back to the NCAA Tournament in 2015. With their combination of experience and talent, coupled with the departure of Mercer to the Southern Conference, The USC Upstate Spartans and North Florida Ospreys should provide the Eagles with some competition, but it's nothing that they cannot overcome.

Dunk City is ready to make some more noise in the NCAA Tournament, and the college basketball fan base will be more than happy to have them back. The Atlantic Sun winner has advanced to the 3rd Round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons, so don't be surprised to see the Eagles pull off an upset if they get back to the big dance this season.

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