Florida history is made tonight – FAU and Miami take the court in the Final Four

For the first time in our state’s history, we have two schools competing in College sports’ most visible event – the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. Florida Atlantic (FAU) and Miami (UM) have very different basketball histories, with FAU generally being an also-ran program and UM being a frustratingly poor one in many NIT and NCAA tournaments.

In addition, Nova Southeastern, a private school based just west of Fort Lauderdale has won the NCAA Division II men’s title.

From Twitter

Florida Atlantic takes on San Diego State (SDSU) and might be considered the favorite in the game of two mid-majors, though it must be said SDSU is an elite program that potentially got cheated out of their best shot to win the National Championship by the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament due to Covid (the same could be said for Florida State actually).

As someone who follows University of Miami Men’s Basketball closer than any other sports team, this has been a long-term build which began with current FSU Head Coach Leonard Hamilton turning Miami from a joke to power in the old (original) Big East conference.

In time, Miami was likely to always make a Final Four, and perhaps it would have come sooner had the program not been scrutinized wrongly by the FBI a few years ago as part of a wider investigation into top college basketball programs. Miami got lumped in with other programs that did cross certain ethical and legal lines, and it cost the school two recruiting classes, right at a time when Miami had become an established contender at the top of the ACC. There was also that stunning loss to Loyala of Chicago in the NCAA’s that has become immortalized in TV commercials among other places. The Hurricanes were always going to bounce back though. As far as FAU being here, that’s even more remarkable.

FAU has made an established D1 postseason competition (one you get invited to, not pay to participate in) for just the third time in its history, they have made this sort of run. This is a program that has been coached in the past by the likes of Sidney Green, Matt Doherty, Rex Walters and Mike Jarvis – big names who couldn’t find the success, Dusty May, a young coach in his first top job has. It is to say the least, unbelievable. FAU had tried for years to strike gold in this sport and had failed, Now under a first time coach, they more than discovered a little gold, they hit the mother lode.

May is a prodigy who lives and breathes basketball. An Assistant Coach at Louisiana Tech and Florida under Mike White, he was hired to coach FAU by White’s brother, the Athletic Director Brian White. To say it was an inspired hire, is an understatement. It’s worth noting Jordan Mincy who was also on the Florida staff under White now coaches Jacksonville University, and he’s a coach I have high hopes will turn JU into a better program.

In contrast, Miami has been a postseason fixture since the mid 1990’s, yet routinely an easy team to pick to be upset early in whatever bracket competition you enter- it’s almost as if Miami after years of bombing out earlier than expected saw FAU’s run and realized they needed to match it.  

Irrespective of the paths over the years, both schools have earned this “one shining moment” in the sun.

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