We are getting a preview of what things could look like in the new look American Athletic Conference on Friday when the Memphis Tigers take on the Florida Atlantic Owls in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Owls will be one of six programs that will become conference members starting next season. The others are UTSA, Rice, North Texas, Charlotte, and UAB.
Both programs are ranked 24th and 25th in the country and are seeded 8th and 9th in the East Region. The Owls compiled a record of 31-3 and won the Conference USA championship for the 2022-2023 season. As the Owls enter their first NCAA tournament game in over a decade, they will look to rely on their depth and experience to pull off an upset against a talented Memphis team. Here are a few things to know about Florida Atlantic and what challenges they could present to Memphis in Friday’s matchup.
Leading Scorer: Johnell Davis
During his time in high school, FAU guard Johnell Davis was in the running to be named Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana. He averaged 25 points per game, 10.1 rebounds, 3.4 steals, and 3.2 assists per game as a senior, helping the Cougars to a fourth straight sectional championship. Davis was also named to the Indiana State All-Star team.
For the 2022-2023 campaign, Davis was the Owls leading scorer. He averaged 13.5 points per game, 1.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. The Gary, Indiana native is an athletic point guard who loves to attack the basket and has a knack for getting second-chance points. While Davis may not be a dominant scorer on a night-in and night-out basis, his skill set is essential to the Owls’ success. Because of his effectiveness on the boards, Davis is a player that Memphis must prioritize defending.
Important Key Stats
While the Owls may not have an explosive scorer in the mold of Kendric Davis and Deandre Williams, their overall team statistics are impressive. FAU is ranked within the top 50 in categories such as three-point percentage, rebounding, scoring defense, and team-effective field goal percentage. Overall, the Owls’ success this season can be attributed to their balanced and disciplined approach on both ends of the court. While they may not have a single dominant scorer, their depth and versatility make them a formidable opponent that should not be underestimated.
How Did they Fair Against the Competition?
The Owls capped off a historic regular season by winning their first and only Conference USA championship. Their only losses came against Ole Miss, UAB, and Middle Tennessee. They were able to hand on to defeat the Florida Gators 76-74 in the earlier months of the season. Nine of its 31 wins came by five points or less. They beat the Blazers for the second-straight time 78-56 to win the CUSA title and became the league’s only representative in the NCAA tournament. Overall, the Owls have closed out the season red-hot.
They are currently on a seven-game winning streak, which started on February 23—FAU’s successful season marked a significant turning point for the Owls program, as they established themselves as a dominant force in Conference USA and earned their rightful place in the NCAA tournament. With their talent and tenacity, the Owls will surely be a formidable opponent for the Tigers.
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