The 2023-24 Florida Atlantic Men's Basketball Team will begin their season on November 8th, taking on the Loyola Chicago Ramblers at Wintrust Arena for the Barstool Invitational. The time for tip-off is set for 7:00 PM EST (6:00 PM CT).
This will be the program's first journey as a member of the American Athletic Conference, ending what was an interesting 10-year ride in Conference USA. Having a rocky start with the first five years being losing seasons under Mike Jarvis and Michael Curry, things took a turn for the best when Dusty May took over at the helm. Since his hiring, FAU has had five straight winning seasons including appearances in the College Invitational Tournament (CIT), the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), and most recently the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Dusty May spoke on FAU's unforgettable 2022-23 campaign on October 19th during Basketball Media Day at the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena heading into the start of the season.
"The crazy thing about last year in general is that it happened really fast. And we are so process-oriented, that we're always on to the next thing and then immediately, the season ends abruptly obviously. And it's on to the next thing, which is figuring out a way to 'Let's all try to do this again', because I think there's such a high level of mutual respect of care for everyone within the program," May said.
"Then it becomes what are the issues going to be next year, what do we need to improve on, what are the holes in our roster, what are the holes in our system, and immediately begin trying to fix those things and find out the best way for this next year's team to play. So a lot goes into it for our guys but the one thing that's been constant is their work ethic and their drive to improve."
The Owls finished with a program-best 35-4 record including a perfect 17-0 showing in front of their home fans in The Burrow. Dominating in their final C-USA Tournament to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, they kept pushing further and further until a buzzer-beater ended their title hopes in a 72-71 defeat to San Diego State in the Final Four.
FAU has the special privilege of returning everyone from last season with the exception of Michael Forrest, May's first-ever recruit who spent his entire five-year career with the program as he finished his adventure with the Owls as the all-time leader in three-pointers made. The head coach did do some recruiting over the past couple of months, having guards Devin Vanterpool and Jakel Powell be the newest additions to this year's squad.
"We've had a great offseason. I think everyone on our roster, when we go through it individually, is significantly better than they were six months ago. And we're really excited to see what we can become this season," May said.
- From The Hunter To The Hunted
No one expected the Owls to dominate the way they did last season, with media members having projected them to finish fifth in C-USA. This year, all eyes are on FAU to continue that recent success, being tabbed as favorites to win the AAC by a wide margin while being ranked 10th in the AP's Top 25 Preseason Poll.
Understanding that they will have a lot of targets on their backs once they begin their campaign, Dusty May said the team has to stay level-headed throughout the course of the year. "There's going to be some games where we face an incredibly emotional environment, and with our emotion, we'll have to be able to match that…we felt like we'd be competing for a championship in the last week of the season in position to play in the NCAA tournament and we feel the same way this year," he stated.
- Must-See Matchups
The Owls begin this season with arguably the strongest non-conference schedule they've ever experienced throughout its history. According to the AP's Top 25 Preseason Poll, they will be facing perennial powerhouses with Illinois (25th) at Madison Square Garden in the Empire State and Arizona (12th) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. They will also be hosting high-quality teams in Liberty and Charleston, the former coming off an appearance in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) and the latter giving national runner-ups San Diego State fits during the first round of March Madness.
"We wanted to schedule a lot of these games in the past and did not have that opportunity," May said. "It would have been irresponsible of us to finally have the opportunity and pass on any of them…We did it because we wanted our guys to be on the biggest stage and competing against the best, night-in, night-out," May said.
Despite seeing departures in Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF as they all moved to the Big 12, the strength of the American is still no joke. The Owls' two matchups with Memphis on February 25th and March 9th will be highly anticipated by both fanbases as rematches from the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The team will also have intriguing encounters with North Texas, UAB, and Charlotte, teams who also made the move from C-USA to the AAC after making successful runs in the NIT and the CBI. You can view the entire 2023-24 schedule here.
- Depth? Not a Problem
FAU boasted a lot of depth as they mostly enjoyed a healthy 2022-23 season without having any severe injuries to worry about. With that in mind, May commented that the rotation would be too big if this year's campaign already started. "It's a good problem because it's not as in the first couple of years we had too big of a rotation, but it was more of us trying to figure out who we're going to play and we needed to see some guys in games to see what they look like," May said.
"Now we can overcome injuries, we can overcome a lot of foul trouble, and we can overcome a lot of things because we have a lot of competence in 16 guys on our roster."
- On The Rise
It is expected for guards Alijah Martin, Johnell Davis, Nick Boyd, and Bryan Greenlee to maintain their roles as the main scoring options. But with this season presenting different scenarios from what the team encountered last year, this is a big opportunity for forwards Tre Carroll, Brenen Lorient, and Isaiah Gaines to make significant impacts.
Carroll has particularly seen his role with the squad grow over time since he joined in 2021, putting up averages of 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds on 64.1% shooting from the field and 54.5% from beyond the arc in 18 games during the 2022-23 campaign. He has addressed his ability to be more aggressive with his rebounding, being more persistent in getting extra possessions for the team, and utilizing his passing to keep his teammates involved throughout the offseason.
"I've been really working on playing at my own pace, whether that's a slower person guarding me or a fast person guarding me. But it's really about controlling the tempo of the game," Carroll said.
- Refining Imperfections
As successful as the Owls were last season, there were some flaws in their play that kept them from getting the highly-coveted opportunity of competing for the national championship. "Our late-clock offensive production wasn't great, our baseline out-of-bounds defense wasn't great. It's the micro of the game and we're always trying to get better while also maintaining the high-level success," May noted. He also commented that they're continuing to improve at conceding less turnovers and forcing more turnovers while winning the possession battle against opposing teams.
"We're trying to play a little bit faster. We're trying to generate a few more possessions. We're trying to exert more energy in every facet to give us the best chance to utilize our personnel," May said.
- Unique Rotations
A key component to the Owls' astounding dominance throughout many games last year was their ability to roll out lineups consisting of four guards and a big man. During the 20-game winning streak, Bryan Greenlee, Nick Boyd, Jalen Gaffney, Brandon Weatherspoon and Vladislav Goldin was the starting five with Alijah Martin and Johnell Davis representing what turned out to be the best scoring bench in the country. By the time the Final Four came around, FAU adjusted with a starting unit of Greenlee, Martin, Boyd, Davis, and Goldin.
May said it's too early to tell when it comes to finding consistency in a starting rotation as the team builds chemistry with one another. "Starting lineups are not important for us. It's who finishes but we're always looking for combinations of players who play well together and find great chemistry. And we were able to do that last year with our first and second units. Our second unit led the country in scoring as a bench group, so we're excited to hopefully have a similar type of production off the bench this season," he said.
Forward Giancarlo Rosado even alluded to different styles of play whenever him or Goldin are on the court. “When (Goldin) is in the game, we play one style. And when I check in, we play another style. So it’s like having to scout two different teams in one game,” Rosado explained. May would also like to experiment having both Rosado and Goldin on the hardwood at times for certain matchups. “How much (Goldin and Rosado play together) will depend on the emergence of some of the other young guys and also on how well they play together—and how they figure out how to stay out of each other’s way,” May said.
The emphasis on having more size on the court, whether it be inside or at the perimeter, could prove to be crucial for an FAU squad who will need to handle everything AAC opponents throw at them when conference play begins.
Projected Starting Lineup
G Bryan Greenlee
G Alijah Martin
G Nick Boyd
G Johnell Davis
C Vladislav Goldin
The Owls will be at home 14 times for the 2023-24 season, and will tip-off the slate on November 14th under the lights against East Michigan. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets to the game or any other home event can do so by contacting 1-866-FAU-OWLS.
For the first time in program history, season tickets are sold out. Depending on visiting team returns, tickets may become available at a later date. To join their 2024-25 season ticket waitlist, click here.