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SBC Men's Hoops First Round Preview: USA @ FAU

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USA (16-14, 8-10) @ FAU (14-15, 10-8)

When: Saturday, Mar. 6th - 3:15PM EST

Where: Hot Springs, AR - Summit Arena

TV: None

Live Video: SBC Extra Pay Per View

ESPN 760 Internet Broadcast: Here

Live Stats: Here

USA Team Site: Here

Probable Starters:

USA

G Allyn Cooks 7.2 ppg
G Tim Williams 16.1 ppg
F Charles Tabet 1.7 ppg
F Gary Redus 8.9 ppg
C Philip Tabet 1.2 ppg

FAU

G Ray Taylor 14.2 ppg
G Alex Tucker 6.5 ppg
G Greg Gantt 15.7 ppg
G Sanchez Hughley 10.1 ppg
F Brett Royster 9.9 ppg

The Series

The all time series stands at 6-2 in favor of the Jaguars. The teams split the regular season with Florida Atlantic falling 96-93 in overtime on January 2nd at FAU Arena, and picking up a 70-59 win on the road on January 29 in Mobile, AL.

USA at a Glance

South Alabama comes into the tournament as the ninth seed after having ended their season on a high note. Down by a whopping 22 points in the second half to Denver last Saturday, they closed the contest on a 31-7 run to pull off a 54-52 win at the Mitchell Center. Tim Williams, who recently received Second Team All Conference,  accounted for the Jaguars last 11 points.

"This was a game of nothing but pride and heart", said coach Ronnie Arrow. "We wanted to send our seniors out as winners and we did that."

The Pioneers dropped 9 of 13 threes during the first half, but South Alabama employed a daunting press during the second frame that rendered Denver unfruitful with just four attempts - all being unsuccessful.

"The press was the difference in the game. It caused more turnovers for them, and I really think they got tired", Arrow said.

The Jaguars (16-14, 8-10) have slid a bit in comparison to last season's mark (20-13, 10-8) due to team suspensions and unfortunate injuries.

Guard Bryan Sherrer was diagnosed with a torn lateral meniscus on February 11th, after sustaining the injury in a contest against Florida International, and has not seen action since. Sherrer, a 90.8% free throw shooter, was averaging double figures prior.

The prognosis given for his return was a 2-4 week time frame.  He is listed as "possible" on the game notes issued by USA.

The Jaguars are 14-1 on the year when outshooting their opponents, and have won the conference tournament five times.

FAU at a Glance

The Owls dropped their last three regular season games, but were still able to muster an eighth seed heading into the tournament.

Given the new format, with teams that did not earn a bye having to play the first round in Arkansas during day one, FAU will face a difficult task while having to play four games in four days to win the tournament.

Previously, seeds four through thirteen battled it out on the higher seeds home courts; which would have had the Owls hosting at home. FAU will likely play in a lightly attended match-up on Saturday.

Still, Jarvis thinks it's the best route to organize the tournament.

"The tournament should be played at one site, and all the kids should get a chance to go", Jarvis said. "It's the right way."

With the Owls taking on USA in the first round, things couldn't have been better scripted.  FAU will play the first game during day one at the best time slot possible.  The Owls will have over 24 hours between the first and second round should they advance.

"I expect the guys to play well, because we're not supposed to win it", said coach Mike Jarvis.  "We should play well, there's no pressure on us. They've already proven that, with the exceptions of a couple teams, that we can beat anybody in this league. Whether or not you can do that four nights in a row or not remains to be seen, but anything is possible if you believe it."

"I think the match-ups are good. I think the first night the match-up is good. I think the second night, if we get there, the match-up is good again. I like the match-ups", said Jarvis.

Brett Royster was recently named Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year, and continues to established a new FAU single season blocks record.

"Well deserved, he's one of the best shot-blockers in the country", said Jarvis. "I'm more pleased with his progress than I am with whether or not he gets an award or not. I see him finally turning the corner in more ways than just blocking shots. I've been pushing him for two years now and am going to push him for as long as he's here, but he's pushing himself now. That's the only kind that really counts."

The Owls hit the road Friday afternoon in order to maximize practice time on the home court.

Latest Line:

FAU - 3.0

Owl's Nest Prediction

Unless Sherrer shows up, USA will face limited numbers again.  But even if he should, being in game condition is another matter.

Both teams have struggled on the road; ironically winning at each other's place in the regular season.

But FAU has more depth and shows to be a clear favorite statistically.

Going with the Owls in a close one once again.

FAU -2

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