The start of the college basketball season is less than one month away, and there’s significant optimism regarding the men’s team at FIU.
FIU, ranked third in a Conference USA preseason poll, plays 13 non-conference games this year, and the realistic goal would be to win 10 of them.
Road tests at Mississippi State, North Carolina State, and Minnesota are likely losses.
However, if the Panthers can accomplish those 10 non-league wins, they would be on pace to match or surpass last season’s breakthrough, 20-14 record under Jeremy Ballard, who is now in his second year as head coach.
FIU will be led this season by a pair of senior forwards: 6-6 Devon Andrews and 6-9 Osasumwen Osaghae. Andrews is considered the most versatile player in the league and is a preseason, first-team, all-conference pick after averaging 15.3 points last season. He scored at least 20 points nine times.
Osaghae is ranked as C-USA’s top rebounder and defensive player. He averaged 3.1 blocks — which ranked fourth in the nation — and 8.5 rebounds.
Here are the non-conference highlights on FIU’s schedule, with all rankings gleamed from Lindy’s magazine:
▪ Nov. 5 at Mississippi State: FIU’s season opener comes against the Bulldogs, ranked fourth in the SEC and 22nd in the nation.
▪ Nov. 13 at N.C. State: The Wolfpack is ranked fifth in the ACC and 30th in the nation. Markell Johnson, a 6-1 senior point guard, led the ACC in assists last season and shot 42.2% on three-pointers. He is regarded as the best shooter and most entertaining player in that league.
▪ Dec. 28 at Minnesota: This is a matchup against former FIU coach Richard Pitino, who took the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32 last season. However, the Gophers graduated their top two scorers and are likely to start three sophomores on a young team.
This and that
▪ FIU’s men’s soccer team, ranked 21st in the nation, remained undefeated late Saturday night, tying host Akron 1-1 in a double-overtime thriller. FIU (7-0-3) tied the score on a late goal by Andrew Booth, who scored in the 87th minute.
It was Booth’s fourth goal of the season. Alban Rousselet, who started the play with a corner kick, and Owen Green earned assists.
FIU nearly won the game on a Booth overtime goal, but it was negated by an offsides call.
▪ When FIU’s football team routed Massachusetts 44-0 on Saturday to improve to 2-3, something went virtually unnoticed: redshirt freshman Lyndell Hudson Jr. earned his first career start, getting the call at right tackle. Devontay Taylor moved from right tackle to the left side to replace D’Ante Demery, who sat out the first half as per NCAA ejection rules from the previous game.
FIU has also been rotating Shaq Williams and Mershawn Miller every two possessions at right guard.
▪ FIU punt returner Maurice Alexander is the C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week. He leads the nation in punt-return average (28.7).
▪ FIU coach Butch Davis was asked if kicker Jose Borregales’ issues — resolved on Saturday when he went 8-for-8 on three field goals and five extra points — had been more mental or physical.
“Initially, it was slightly psychological,” Davis said of Borregales, who is working with a new snapper and holder his year. “Then when you change your mind — ‘I’ve got to plant my foot, this and that’ — you start making mechanical mistakes.
“Trust the snapper. Trust the holder. … [Borregales] has been making field goals forever. Go back to the basics — 1.2 seconds, plant your foot, do your swing, and don’t try to overcompensate.”