Florida Atlantic and NCAA Basketball Early Odds: Key Players Return

Florida Atlantic and NCAA Basketball Early Odds: Key Players Return

No team from outside a power conference has won the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament since UNLV in 1990. That might change on April 8, 2024, from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., as Florida Atlantic, formerly of Conference USA, will return all its key players from last season’s Final Four team after stars and first-team All-C-USA picks Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin withdrew from the NBA Draft before Wednesday’s deadline. The Owls are +4000 to win the national title, which is great value.


2024 NCAA Tournament Odds: Florida Atlantic Stars Returning To School After Final Four Run


Martin was not invited to either NBA Draft combines, while Davis was among the invites to the NBA G-League Combine. However, despite a solid showing in the combine, Davis was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.

Davis and Martin both averaged over 13 points and five rebounds to lead FAU’s remarkable run to the Final Four, where the Owls lost on a buzzer-beater to San Diego State in the national semifinal game. In the Round of 32 against Fairleigh Dickinson, Davis put up a historic statline never before seen in tournament history: 29 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and five steals. His steal and breakaway layup in the second half helped the Owls take the lead and solidify the victory.

FAU was the first Conference USA school to reach the Final Four. A program that had only made the tournament once all the way back in 2002 and never won a game were seconds away from making the national championship game.

The Owls finished with 35 wins, the most in Division I and only three short of the all-time mark of 38. They were just the fifth team since seeding began to make it all the way to the Final Four after having never won a tournament game in previous seasons. Florida Atlantic finished 11-2 in games decided by five points or less and 16-2 in games decided by nine points or less.

With the two dynamic guards re-joining impact center Vladislav Goldin and head coach Dusty May, FAU will enter the 2023-24 season for sure ranked in the Top 10 and likely as the team to beat in the new-look AAC with the Owls headed to that league.

Golden was named Third-Team All-C-USA after averaging a career-high 10.3 points and a team-leading 6.6 rebounds per game. May got a big contract extension after the Final Four run. He was named the CBS Sports National Coach of the Year, as well as the NABC All-District 17 Coach of the Year and Conference USA Coach of the Year. May is the Owls’ all-time leader in coaching wins with a record of 101-60, despite having only been on the FAU sidelines for five seasons.

Florida Atlantic was one of five Division I schools not to have one player leave via transfer.

“I think in the back of everyone’s minds, we all expected each other to come back,” May said. “I think deep down they expected me to come back. They expected the staff to come back, and I deep down was hopeful — I didn’t expect them to come back — but was hopeful that they would all want to come back.”

The Owls haven’t released their 2023-24 schedule yet but will play in the 2023 ESPN Events Invitational. The Owls will compete in the eight-team event that takes place at Disney World from Nov. 23- Nov. 26. In addition to the Owls, Boise State, Butler, Iowa State, Penn State, Texas A&M, VCU and Virginia Tech will compete at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. FAU is the first ESPN Events Invitational team coming off a Final Four appearance since Villanova in 2018.

FAU also will compete against St. Bonaventure in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 16 from the MassMutual Center, located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball. The event’s other game features UMass and West Virginia.

Finally, the Field of 68 Tip-Off will be held at FAU’s Boca Raton campus from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 and can be seen on YouTube. The three-year round-robin series will feature three of the top mid-major programs in the country: FAU, College of Charleston and Liberty. This year, FAU and Liberty will play on Nov. 30, Charleston and Liberty will play on Dec. 1 and FAU and Charleston will play on Dec. 2.

As noted, FAU is moving from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference along with Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UAB, so the league schedule will get tougher.


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