For the first time ever, the Ospreys of North Florida will be dancing. After beating South Carolina Upstate, 63-57, on Sunday, the Ospreys earned the automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament as winners of the Atlantic Sun conference. And to boot, this is only North Florida’s sixth season a a Division 1 member.
This is a team you might want to get to know. North Florida is now 23-11 overall after finishing in first place in the Atlantic Sun with 12-2 record. Oddly, their only two losses in conference were to USC Upstate. So, it was redemption for the Ospreys, as it proved it was the conference’s best team when it was all said and done.
Much credit goes to head coach Matthew Driscoll for getting his team ready for the grind of the long season by scheduling an imposing non-conference slate. The Ospreys have already beaten a fine team in Purdue, who perhaps will be also in the NCAA Tournament. North Florida also took on South Carolina, Northwestern, Northern Iowa, Florida State, Iowa and Alabama this season, only to lose them all. They took it on the chin early for sure, but it only made them a stronger team.
The Ospreys are definitely battle tested and will be ready for all comers next week. As a result of their tough schedule, North Florida now has a respectable 126 RPI, according to KenPom.com. Expect them to garner a 15 or 16 seed. Joe Lunardi currently has them as a 16 seed and being part of the first four games in Dayton.
In Sunday’s win, it was Demarcus Daniels who shined brightest as he led the Ospreys with 22 points (7-13 from the field). Jalen Nesbitt and Dallas Moore added 16 and 13 points, respectively.
It is Moore who leads North Florida in scoring with 16 points per game, while also being tops on the team with 3.7 assists per game. 6’8” junior forward Beau Beech adds 12.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. 6’8” sophomore forward Chris Davenport chips in 11.6 points and a team-leading 6.4 rebounds per game (he had eight points and 10 rebounds in Sunday’s title game). Meanwhile, Nesbitt is the final double-figure scorer for the Ospreys with 10.6 points per game.
So, as you can see this is a very balanced team that likes to spread the wealth. After prepping his team with a very challenging and demanding non-conference schedule, Driscoll should have his troops ready. North Florida won’t be afraid of anybody. That’s for sure. We’ll see if North Florida can make their first appearance a memorable one next week.