Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Men’s Basketball: “Run it back.” FAU’s return to the NCAA tournament and the difference from last season

The Owls will make their second consecutive March Madness appearance, bringing with them new experience and even more fans.
Erika Fletcher
The men’s basketball team posing for the fans during paradise madness at Eleanor Baldwin Arena on Oct. 25, 2023.

Last season, Florida Atlantic University’s men’s basketball team made their historic Cinderella run to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. 

Now, the Owls are heading back to March Madness as a No. 8 seed in the East Region today to play No. 9 Northwestern, marking their second consecutive year in the big dance, but they are bringing experience with them this time. 

“It seems more familiar. The guys seem equally excited. It’s just different,” head coach Dusty May said. “It just seems much more familiar than last year where everything seemed new to us.”

The players have had this moment “circled,” according to May. Throughout this season, they played with a new purpose: to get back to the stage. 

“We love this type of setting. We were pretty successful in tournaments, and we’re just excited to play them,” Alijah Martin said. 

May believes that playing in the tournament is a dream all college basketball players share because the world is watching.

Head coach Dusty May walking across the court ahead of the FAU’s Final Four matchup against San Diego State at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on April 1, 2023. (Nicholas Windfelder)

“I remember being a little kid, and you’d get off the school bus, and you’d sprint inside as fast as you can because the NCAA tournament was on,” May said. “It’s the greatest sporting event in the world, in my opinion. We’re just honored and privileged to be a part of it and once again put our guys on the national stage.”

Playing in the NCAA tournament brought the Owls much more media attention than before. ESPNU produced a film over the summer titled “Run It Back.” It highlighted the behind-the-scenes of the team and recapped their memorable season.

Every regular season game this year has been broadcast live through different sites, such as ESPNU and ESPN+, as well as two games making national television. Last year, 17 out of the 31 regular season games were shown on ESPN+. 

FAU played in the three most-watched AAC games this season. Their last home game against Memphis had 922,000 viewers on CBS. The Dec. 5 game against Illinois had 768,000 viewers on ESPN, and their game against Arizona on Dec. 23 had 735,000 viewers.  

Having additional coverage has brought light not only to their basketball program but to the university as a whole. 

“It’s been an honor to represent this place on this scale,” May said with a smile. “From the time we landed in New York last year before we went to the Final Four, our guys have been recognizable. They’ve been figures all over South Florida, and they’ve been recognized everywhere.”

During the Fall of 2022, FAU had a total of 29,614 students. As of Fall 2023, the number of students increased by 1,240 for a new total of 30,854. The recent student body growth is the largest that FAU has experienced in the last five years. 

Freshman Jordan Lasky said that the Final Four appearance last season was the leading factor in his decision to come to FAU. He wanted to attend a school that had sports programs he could get excited about. 

For the Owls’ home opener, select students camped outside the arena for 24 hours to ensure they got the best seats in the house and to show their high school spirit. They battled a rainy night, sleeping in tents and hammocks, but this event set the tone for the extreme support the team would have this season. 

Alijah Martin hyping up the FAU Student Section during the team’s 86-77 comeback win against Wichita St. (Jaden Wiston )

In the 2022-23 season home-opener against Lynn University, only 1,314 of the 2,900 seats were filled. But this year, community members and students struggled to find open seats. 

On Oct. 23, season tickets were sold out for the first time in school history, and students had to get to the arena at least an hour before tip-off to secure their seats. 

“It was amazing. I always think about when we didn’t have what we have now, which is supporting fans and being grateful. I’ve always tried to give them a show to watch, something to be proud of,” Martin said. 

During the Owls’ last home game of the season against Memphis, the fans made such a vocal impact that Memphis’s players could not hear their coaches play. 

“I’m just going to give credit to their crowd,” Memphis forward Jayden Hardaway said during the post-game press conference after losing to the Owls 92-84. 

Many different celebrities in the sporting world have attended as well, including Jimmy Butler, Aleksander Barkov, Cris Carter, and Antonio Brown.

NFL HOF Cris Carter (top left) and Former NFL All-Pro WR Antonio Brown (top right) in FAU’s game against Memphis. Miami Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler (bottom left) and Florida Panters all-time leading scorer Alexander Barkov (bottom right) at FAU’s game against Wichita St. (Jaden Wiston)

“Our student body, our fans, our local community, they provided a spark that got us over the hump several nights at home against very quality opponents, so it’s appreciated. We’re very grateful for it, but also our guys deserve it,” May said. 

The Owls will be in Brooklyn, N.Y., to take on No. 9 Northwestern University Wildcats, and tip-off is set for 12:15 p.m. 

Megan Bruinsma is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @megan_bruinsma or X(Twitter) @MeganBruinsma.

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About the Contributors
Megan Bruinsma
Megan Bruinsma, Sports Editor
Megan is a junior majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in sports studies. She has grown up with a passion for watching and playing sports. She’s excited to continue her journey of learning how to cover sports in a professional sense. Megan has hopes to become a sports reporter for an NFL or NBA team.
Erika Fletcher
Erika Fletcher, Lead Photographer
Erika is a senior majoring in multimedia studies with a minor in photography. She loves shooting sports and street photography and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, skateboarding, playing soccer, listening to music, and being with her friends and family. She joined the UP on a whim to make new friends and to get better at photography. In her time here, while not long, she's made connections and learned so much about herself already and can't wait to continue her journey with such great people.

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