This is not the end of Dunk City
Just like that, the dream was over.
The dream of making the NCAA tournament was crushed. Mercer was celebrating on the Alico Arena floor because they were going dancing. The Bears did what Florida Gulf Coast University did to them last year.
FGCU was crushed. They turned a 17-point Mercer lead to just a one-point deficit in the second half. But it wasn’t enough. Instead of the NCAA tournament, the Eagles are now going to the National Invitational Tournament.
The Internet went wild. Websites started posting stuff like “Dunk City is Dead” and “Dunk City No More” just because FGCU didn’t make the tournament.
But as cliché as it sounds, what if this wasn’t the end of the magical run that started in March 2013, but rather the beginning? What if I told you that next year is poised to be the best year in FGCU history?
Dunk City isn’t dead. It’s only just begun.
After the game, I was sitting in the postgame press conference and I thought to myself, “Wow, this really feels like the end of the 2011-12 season.”
A little more than two years before Sunday, then-head coach Andy Enfield was sitting in the pressroom upset because FGCU just lost the Atlantic Sun championship to Belmont, 83-69. He shouldn’t have been upset because it was his first year at FGCU, and it was the team’s first year eligible for postseason play.
Fast forward to Sunday. First-year head coach Joe Dooley sat in the pressroom upset because his Eagles just lost 68-60. Like Enfield, he shouldn’t be upset. It was his first year at FGCU. And he’s only just begun.
FGCU returns four of five starters this year. This team will be absolutely stacked next year. This will be the first time we see Logan Hovey, who averaged 22.7 points per game his senior year of high school but redshirted this year due to injury; Julian DeBose, who averaged 10.4 points per game in 31 games last year at Rice; Nick Pellar and Brian Greene Jr., who both transferred from Auburn; and the sideline show himself, Marc-Eddy Norelia, who transferred from Tulane.
Those four guys plus the four guys returning plus the new recruits should equal another trip to the NCAA tournament.
It also helps that the A-Sun is losing two members. FGCU’s main rival, Mercer, is leaving the conference next year for the Southern Conference, along with East Tennessee State. Mercer and ETSU were two of the four semifinalists in this year’s A-Sun tourney. They were also three of the league’s past six NCAA tournament representatives.
There should be no reason that FGCU doesn’t host the A-Sun tourney again, and there should be no reason that they don’t win it.
But this year isn’t over just yet. FGCU still has a legitimate shot to compete in the NIT. But the question is, will they want to compete?
After disappointment last Sunday, I would expect nothing less. Heck, there’s even a slim possibility of FGCU hosting an NIT game.
But regardless, Dunk City wasn’t just a one-time thing. Dunk City will be here for a long time.
They will still have the ESPN3 deal, they will still be branded as Dunk City and they sure as hell will keep dunking.