When: Saturday, 7:05pm
Where: Alico Arena, Ft. Myers, FL
ESPN3 A-Sun TV(asun.tv)(David Moulton, play-by-play; J. Webb Horton, color)
Radio: 99.3 ESPN(Mark Miller, play-by-play)
Coverage Note: This game was originally scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN3. It is now scheduled to be on A-Sun TV. Again, no official reason has been given. Unofficially, the change is due to technical difficulties. Still no word on whether this will continue to be the case.
After Monday’s game against Division II Eckerd, FGCU again goes into the lower ranks for a home opponent. This time, it’s FGCU’s closest opponent, the Ave Maria Gyrenes of the NAIA.
We learned a few things from FGCU’s 72-55 win over Eckerd. Nate Hicks may have found his groove down inside after struggling with fouls in the first few games. Brett Comer is starting to grow as a leader on the team. Bernard Thompson still isn’t quite healthy yet despite his play. This team needs to seriously improve its free throw shooting. We’ve also more of less come to terms with the fact that this isn’t a first half team.
AVE MARIA? OH YEAH, THOSE GUYS.
Ave Maria is an NAIA school just east of Naples. Okay, just east may be a stretch. It’s a couple miles south of Immokalee, in a planned community created around it by former Domino’s Pizza CEO Tom Monaghan. For those that have never been there(and really, who has?), it’s a lot like going to Celebration or Seaside(that’s where they filmed The Truman Show). There’s kind of one of those Stepford Wives vibes to it, where everything is so planned out it looks overly artificial. AMU opened in 2003, it’s current campus out in the boonies of Collier in 2007, and they started playing sports, including basketball in 2008. To probably everyone’s surprise, including their own, the Gyrenes were the first college in Southwest Florida to start playing football, fielding their first team in 2011. They started in navy and gold colors, but recently switched to blue and green, but it’s totally not the same as FGCU, they say, because they use gray instead of white.
Well…this one took some Google. Their team name is officially the Gyrenes. The logo and mascot are a bulldog. So what’s a gyrene? Apparently, it’s a slang term for a United States Marine. It’s safe to say that Ave Maria is the best college basketball team in the country named the Gyrenes.
UMM…SURE, OKAY. SO WHAT ABOUT THE TEAM?
Ave Maria plays in the NAIA, which is a separate entity from the NCAA. It’s mostly smaller private schools, that would, depending on who is answering the question, is somewhere between equal to Division II, or below Division II but above Division III in terms of talent. The big difference comes down to the individual programs are their budgets. NAIA schools tend to operate on similar budgets to D-III programs, but with the ability to offer athletic scholarships like a D-II school. The NAIA is one of several organizations that sanction college athletics outside of the NCAA, and also the largest. Remember this for later.
The Gyrenes are 2-2 this year, well, officially. They’ve played five games, but for the sake of NAIA records, games played against NCAA D-I programs are considered exhibitions. They’ve played games against teams of four different sanctioning bodies, the NCAA, the NAIA, the NCCAA(National Christian College Athletic Association[yes, that's a thing]), and the USCAA(yes, that’s also a thing).
The only opponent they’ve faced within their own association is Edward Waters, splitting a home-and-home series with them. They also have a win over NCCAA Trinity College of Florida. They’ve lost to USCAA Florida College, and Division I Florida Atlantic. So, the best barometer of where they are relative to FGCU, would likely be FAU. If you go to AMU’s website, they don’t list the final score of that game. Well, while that should tell you enough, the final was 86-51. That’s also FAU’s only win of the season. Look, we’re not a fan of the transitive property either, but we’re trying to prove a point there.
Starters: Brett Comer, Jamail Jones, Filip Cvjeticanin, Chase Fieler, Nate Hicks
Injuries: Bernard Thompson(ankle, day-to-day), Logan Hovey(stress fracture, out), Eric McKnight(suspension, out)
Starters: G Matt Chattin(Sr.), G John Russo(Jr.), G Brandon Dean(So.) F Nate Krimsky(So.), F Wendell Powell(Jr.)
Ave Maria runs, for all intents and purposes, an eight-man rotation. However, the scoring comes mostly from one place. Matt Chattin is responsible for about 30 percent of the team’s scoring, averaging 22.5 points per game. He’s also the team’s best shooter, not only taking the most shots from the field, but also his the highest shooting percentage, both from the field, and from three point range. One other player averages in double figures, and that’s 6’5″ forward Wendell Powell. Powell averages 10.3 per game, and is the Gyrene’s leading rebounder. He’s been to the free throw line more than anyone on the team, but has struggled, shooting just 53.8 percent on free throws.
KEYS TO THE GAME.
Take Care of Business. Eckerd hung around longer than any Division II team should. Don’t let it happen again. This is the fourth time these two teams have met, FGCU’s won them all, and all rather comfortably. FGCU is a better team, a deeper team, and a more talented team. There’s not a single valid reason not to win this one by 30 or more.
Stay Healthy. In his weekly show before the Eagle Club, coach Joe Dooley said that freshman forward Logan Hovey successfully underwent surgery for a stress fracture last week, and is nearly ready to return to practice. Thompson was held out of Monday’s game to allow him to rest his ankle, a lingering sprain from the preseason, and will be a game-time decision for Saturday. There are two games remaining on Eric McKnight’s suspension, meaning that FGCU could be back to its full complement of players shortly, so long as the injury bug stays away.
Free Throws. The Eagles could hit shots with hands in their faces from 25 feet, but straight on from 15 feet with nobody guarding them wasn’t quite as successful Monday. These games happen, but ideally that will be the outlier, not the norm.
The phrase “What’s a Gyrene?” appears in the search history of over 1,000 iPhones.
The Eagles put this one away earlier than Monday.