What to Make of FAU’s Basketball Season

Ryan Cortes

t wasn’t supposed to end like this

Not so early, not like this, not now. Perhaps it could be expected of another team, but the most successful FAU basketball team of all time and the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament?

Except, it did happen. Again.

For the second straight year, FAU bowed out of the Sun Belt Conference tournament and relinquished its NCAA tournament chances in the first round.

Last year, a less talented, younger FAU team with nowhere near the depth of this year’s edition lost in the first round. Seeded eighth in that tournament, Brett Royster was unable to make a late shot, which was part of the reason FAU was sent home early.

It wasn’t a huge surprise at the time.

But this year was different.

This was a year where seemingly each week another unprecedented accomplishment came to light. The first 21-win season in FAU’s history, three all-conference players, Sun Belt regular-season champions, the conference’s coach of the year.

Yet even with a bye week and the No. 1 seed attached to its hip, FAU faltered early.

The most successful season in the program’s history was also unbelievably disappointing.

Which is a great, great thing.

As lunatic as it sounds, this is a good thing going forward for the program. In one season, FAU basketball did the unthinkable. The Owls made it OK for fans to be disappointed with what normally would have been celebrated.

“In the beginning of the year, the NIT [tournament] would have been a big thing and now it’s like a secondary prize,” said Royster.

“Nobody really thought we’d be anywhere near a postseason tournament,” said guard Ray Taylor. “And for us to win 20 games, win our league outright and put up a banner in the gym means a lot.”

It still feels like disappointment, though.

Coach Mike Jarvis can tell his team all he wants that this is a great accomplishment, and for all intents and purposes, he’s right.

“It’s still a great thing,” said Jarvis. “The reality is, it’s a great accomplishment for this program at this time, considering the resources and everything in play. For us to win the Sun Belt Conference and basically be one of the bottom-three budgeted programs in our league is incredible and we [are] never going to diminish that.”

But that doesn’t change what was expected as recently as a week ago, when an NCAA tournament was within reach as FAU was favored to acquire a bid to the most prestigious tournament in the college sport.

On Sunday March 13th, on ESPNU, the Owls found out their opponent in the NIT tournament. FAU will face off against the University of Miami on Wednesday, March 16 in the tournament that feels as much like a consolation prize as the raggedy old teddy bear given away at carnivals.

That same consolation prize is one FAU won’t want next year.

And that’s a great, great thing.