The Florida Atlantic University Owls stunned the basketball world in the 2022-23 season with an improbable journey to the Final Four. Their historic victories over formidable opponents like Memphis, Tennessee, Kansas State, and more left fans and analysts alike in awe. Now, as they gear up for the 2023-24 season, the Owls face a new challenge: proving that their remarkable Final Four run was not a fluke. We delve into their demanding non-conference schedule, where they'll encounter both familiar foes and formidable adversaries, all while striving to solidify their newfound reputation as a Top 10 Team in college basketball.
Loyola-Chicago - November 8th @ Wintrust Arena
FAU sets the stage for their season with a showdown against the Ramblers. This matchup will take place in Chicago, Illinois. Despite Loyola's 10-21 record last year, their past Final Four appearance serves as a stark reminder to not underestimate their potential. FAU must remain focused as they embark on this season-defining opener. Loyola-Chicago is having four starters return to the team, who accounted for 62% of their starting offense. Philip Aston was the leading scorer for the Ramblers last season, averaging 14.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Loyola Chicago will look to bounce back after struggling last year.
Eastern Michigan - November 14th @ Baldwin Arena
Eastern Michigan may have struggled with an 8-23 record last season, but FAU's previous victory over them (101-73) means they won't be taken lightly. The Eagles will be eager to avenge their defeat, setting the stage for a hard-fought contest to begin the Owls' home schedule. They took a hard hit in their scoring production, losing Emoni Bates as he got drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 49th pick of this year's NBA Draft. Bates averaged 19.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on 40.7% shooting from the field and 33.1% from deep in his lone season with the Eagles. However, they will return their second leading scorer Tyson Acuff, who averaged 14.3 points a game last season. His biggest strength is his defending, having made 1.3 steals a game.
Bryant - November 18th @ Baldwin Arena
With a 17-13 record, Bryant will be determined to settle the score after FAU's 85-74 win last year. FAU must maintain their competitive edge to secure another victory. Bryant will be returning three starters who accounted for 40% of their offense. They also return their best player in Sherif Gross-Bullock. Bullock averaged 17 points, five rebounds, and three assists last season. His main strength was shooting the three as he shot a very impressive 40% from three.
Butler - November 23rd @ State Farm Field House
Thanksgiving Day will witness a thrilling clash between FAU and Big East contender Butler. Despite Butler's 14-18 record last season, their storied history in the Final Four and the holiday atmosphere promise an enticing matchup. This will be a rebuilding year for Butler as all five of their starters have departed. Despite this, the Bulldogs acquired six new players from the transfer portal this offseason. One key player that Butler got in the transfer portal was Jahmyl Telfort, who averaged 16 points, five rebounds, and two assists on an efficient 45% shooting form the field last season at Northeastern University.
Texas A&M or Penn State - November 24th @ State Farm Field House
Whether FAU wins or loses against Butler, they will regardless face the formidable challenge of either Texas A&M or Penn State in the next round. Whoever wins or loses that matchup will face FAU. Both teams boasted impressive records last season, ensuring an exhilarating contest for the Owls. Penn State finished 2nd in the Big 10, while Texas A&M placed 2nd in the SEC. Going back to last year's March Madness tournament these two teams played each other in the first round. Texas A&M was a 7-seed and Penn State was a 10-seed. Penn State got the better of Texas A&M as they won this matchup 76-59. Penn State advanced to the second round where they met two-seed Texas, where they lost in a 71-66 nail-biter. FAU's third and final matchup in the ESPN Invitational will take place against an opponent to be determined on November 26th.
Liberty - November 30th @ Baldwin Arena
With a commanding 29-7 record last year, Liberty has earned a reputation as a relentless competitor. FAU must bring their best game to secure a victory against this fierce team. Liberty is returning three of their starters, but their biggest loss was guard Darius McGhee, who averaged 23 points last year and 25 points in the 2021-22 season. Liberty fell one point short of making the NCAA tournament as they lost 67-66 to Kennesaw State in the conference championship. Had they won, they would have clinched an automatic bid. Regardless, Liberty made the NIT and ended up beating Villanova in the first round 62-57 before losing to Wisconsin 75-71.
Charleston - December 2nd @ Baldwin Arena
Charleston's remarkable 31-4 record from the previous year, coupled with their near-upset of San Diego State in the NCAA tournament, positions them as a formidable opponent for FAU. Charleston is only returning 2-5 starters who accounted for 28% of their offense. One key player Charleston is returning is Ante Brzovic, a 6-10 center who averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game. He came up clutch in the CAA conference tournament when he had 19 points in the semi-final game against Towson and 15 points in the championship game against Hofstra.
Illinois - December 5th @ Madison Square Garden
FAU will be returning to the Big Apple to take on the 25th-Ranked Fighting Illini at the iconic Madison Square Garden. Illinois, with its storied NCAA tournament history, represents a substantial challenge in this neutral-site game. Illinois is having three of their starters come back from last year, who made up for 49% of their offense. So coach Brad Underwood must find another resource to contribute immediately and Amani Hansberry could be that guy as he joins the squad as their top recruit following the 2022-23 cycle.
FIU - December 13th @ Baldwin Arena
The FAU vs. FIU rivalry always ignites intense passion, and this year, with FIU seeking vengeance for their losses to FAU last season including one that went to overtime, promises to be no different. The backdrop of FAU's Final Four run adds even more intrigue to this fierce matchup. FAU leads this rivalry series with a record of 21-18. Denver Jones was the Panthers' leading scorer with 20.1 points per game last season. His success at FIU led him to get an offer from Auburn, where he is at now. Not only is Jones the only player on FIU who won't return, FIU's entire starting lineup won't be coming back for this upcoming campaign, which puts them in the rebuilding stages.
St. Bonaventure - December 16th @ Reilly Center
Despite a challenging season last year, St. Bonaventure's historical success in the tournament cannot be ignored. FAU must remain vigilant against this opponent. St. Bonaventure is having their starting lineup return, who produced 90% of their offense. St. Bonaventure is known for winning games at home. Last season, their home record was an impressive 11-4 and their away record was 2-11. Because this is a home game for St. Bonaventure, the Owls could be on potential upset alert.
Arizona - December 23rd @ T-Mobile Arena
FAU faces off against 12th-ranked Arizona, a team that held a two-seed last season. Despite a shocking early exit, Arizona remains a basketball powerhouse with a 28-7 record. This neutral-site game in Las Vegas is a marquee event on the non-conference schedule. Arizona will be returning two starters who made up for 12% of their offense. Arizona was upset in the first round of the March Madness tournament by Princeton 59-55. Looking to bounce back from that, coach Tommy Lloyd will likely be coming up with better play calls to make sure he can maintain his success with the Wildcats.
FGCU - December 30th @ Alico Arena
FGCU finished last season with a 17-15 record. The Eagles should not be underestimated as they historically made some astonishing upsets in the 2013 March Madness tournament, when they made the Sweet Sixteen as a 15-seed. This looks like a trap game because FAU is on the road and FGCU will return four of their five starters who account for 24% of their offense. The Eagles scored a total of 2280 points throughout the 2022-23 campaign, the most amount of points scored in last year's regular season that FAU will play in the non-conference schedule.
FAU Men's Basketball's 2023-24 non-conference schedule is rife with challenges, providing them with opportunities to prove that their remarkable Final Four appearance was no fluke. As the Owls strive to solidify their reputation as a consistent force in college basketball, each game on this schedule represents a chance to showcase their talent and determination. Fans can anticipate an electrifying season filled with thrilling basketball action and the potential for further historic achievements.