Joe Dooley had big shoes to fill.
He took over a program that had its best year in history.
He took over a program that is growing so fast that it’s hard to comprehend.
He also took over a program that in the year before had one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the history of the program.
Last year the men’s team traveled to Virginia Commonwealth, Duke and Iowa State all of whom won a game in the NCAA tournament. They hosted Miami who finished 27-6, won the Atlantic Coast Conference and made it to the Sweet 16.
This year is a little different. After the run that FGCU had last season it became harder and harder to schedule teams. They were no longer the cupcake school that teams could host and beat them down, they are now a mid-major that teams are scared of.
Coach Dooley however managed to do something nobody thought would be possible just a few years ago, nationally televised games. There are three to be exact. Nov. 8 on the road at Nebraska to open up their new $179-million facility. That will air on Big Ten Network.
The next is a 7 a.m. game at home Nov. 12 against Hartford on ESPN2. Yes that says 7 a.m. It’s not a typo, FGCU is really playing at 7 a.m. Coach Dooley managed to get FGCU apart of the ESPN’s 24- hour tip-off basketball marathon which will be huge for the school.
Last and most recently announced, FGCU will face Mercer at home Feb. 21 on ESPNU. This is a rematch of last year’s A-Sun title game and will most likely determine the top seed in the A-Sun tournament.
One game that has potential to be aired nationally is the Nov. 26 game against North Carolina State. Granted the Wolfpack might be the third most popular team in North Carolina but they are no easy school. They won 24 games last year but fortunately for FGCU, they lost all five starters.
So coach Dooley I applaud you. Although the schedule isn’t as good as last year you managed to schedule some quality opponents.
On the other hand women’s coach Karl Smesko has built yet again another quality non-conference schedule. Like the men, the women start on the road at in state rival FIU Nov. 8.
The marquee matchup comes at the Hardwood Tournament of Hope in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Nov. 26-29 where in the second game the Eagles will face off against one of the best women’s programs of the past decades. The 2012-13 season for the Cardinal saw 33 wins and the program’s 26th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. The game will be a matchup of the nation’s best 3-point field-goal defensive team in Stanford against the team that has lead the nation in 3-pointers made the past two years. Next, the Eagles face another top opponent in South Dakota State, which finished last season 25-8 after it’s fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
That matchup against Stanford is arguably the biggest game in the history of FGCU women’s basketball. The fact that coach Smesko constantly builds solid nonconference schedules year after year shows how respected he is in the basketball world and that tougher teams are not afraid to play FGCU.
Both of these schedules show in a nutshell how much FGCU has grown in the last five years. From national television games to national championship contenders this year is prone to be even bigger than last year.