When ‘Dunk City’ Meets ‘Hoop Township’


Photo credit: Tyler Gallo

Tyler Gallo

It’s been eight years since Florida Gulf Coast and Robert Morris men’s basketball stood atop the college basketball news cycle.

For the Eagles, it was an improbable, high-flying Cinderella run to the Sweet Sixteen as a no. 15 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, earning them the moniker ‘Dunk City’.

The Colonials have been colloquially called Hoop Township for a while now by locals and students but reaffirmed that phrase in the 2013 NIT when they defeated defending national champions Kentucky in the first round playing at home, nonetheless.

Now, these teams will do battle for just the second time in history and first-ever in the limits of Hoop Township.

So, what has it been like for these two programs since they shared the college basketball mountaintop?

Florida Gulf Coast

The Eagles have been competitive in the ASUN conference every year since their improbable run.

While Andy Enfield departed the following season for USC, Joe Dooley continued their success over the next several seasons before transitioning to East Carolina.

FGCU made it to a postseason appearance in each of the next five years, making it to the CIT once, NIT twice and the NCAA Tournament twice, leading to a slew of first-round exits.

The Eagles were dispatched in the first round of the NIT in 2014, falling 58-53 to top-seeded Florida State.

In the CIT in 2015, FGCU was dropped by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the opening round.

2016 marked the first of consecutive return trips to the Big Dance. Hoping to recreate their magic of three years prior, the Eagles smoked RMU’s NEC rival Fairleigh Dickinson in the First Four 96-65.

The Eagles secured the 16th seed in the East Region, only to be handled by top-seeded North Carolina.

In 2017, they secured their highest seed yet, the 13 seed, thanks to a 26-8 record, their best since joining the ASUN. They nearly exorcised their in-state demons but fell to Florida State by six in the opening round.

Finally, they ended their string of solid play by once again earning a trip to the NIT, but this time it was Oklahoma State that sent them home early.

The team has put a .500 or better team on the floor at Alico Arena every season except two, which happen to be the last two. They have won the ASUN twice in those eight seasons.

It’s been tough sledding for Michael Fly, but this season, the team is off to a scorching 8-3 start thanks to some fresh and not-so-fresh faces on the roster.

“I know they have some talented guys,” RMU coach Andy Toole said on FGCU following RMU’s win on Wednesday. “We need to continue the address the things we need to get better at and come out and fight on Saturday night.”

Who is shining for FGCU?

Tavian Dunn-Martin, who transferred from close-by Duquesne, has been nothing short of a revelation for FGCU.

He’s currently averaging 17.8 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds. He is also shooting at a 41-percent mark overall.

Cyrus Largie has been a reliable secondary option for the team, averaging 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.

While it’s been a while since Dunk City was flying high, the team still is a solid paint team and rebound team, averaging 38.5 team rebounds per game.

6’11, 255-pound fifth-year Kevin Samuel is averaging 8.3 rebounds per game, and Toole referred to him as “a monster of a human being.”

Their free throws, which come with being active as a paint team, are hovering near 70-percent accuracy.

The Eagles travel to Moon after dispensing Florida A&M 69-55 at home on Tuesday night.

Robert Morris

Before their move to the Horizon League, Andy Toole’s teams also have seen their fair share of success in the ensuing years following their shocking win over Kentucky. They fell to Providence in the subsequent round.

Not many may know that they were boat raced by Kentucky at Rupp the following season. The Colonials still found their way into the NIT in 2014, pulling off another upset over St. John’s in the first round and falling to Belmont next.

2015 was an impressive year for the squad. They rolled through the NEC Tournament after a 12-6 conference record and made it to the NCAA Tournament, earning their first-ever win in the Big Dance by knocking off North Florida in the First Four.

In their second-round game, they rolled top-seeded Duke as the 16, getting crushed and sent home as quickly as they came. Nonetheless, it was a great year.

That was their last postseason tournament for four seasons, however, as the squad entered a rebuilding era following the departure of players like Lucky Jones and Karvel Anderson.

In 2019, the team had a solid year and earned themselves a ticket to the CIT for the first time since their quarterfinal appearance in 2012, fending off Cornell at home in the first round in an overtime thriller.

However, the season once again came crashing to a close in the second round, dropping a close one to Presbyterian at home at the North Athletic Complex.

2020 was a new year that brought the team a brand-new arena, and with it came the same style of Colonials basketball.

The Colonials torched the NEC, making it to the championship and bringing back the Hoop Township appellation after smoking Saint Francis in front of a sold-out crowd.

However, as we know, their trip to the tournament was wiped out by a pandemic and the team is drastically different now.

Who is shining for RMU?

A team built on transfers has seen returning players shine early on. Kam Farris, who missed a few games due to injury, is averaging 14.3 points to lead the team and shooting at 68.2-percent from three-point land.

Kahliel Spear is bringing around 13 points a game to the squad while also grabbing eight rebounds a game.

The team has struggled with rebounding and three-point shooting, something the team made a day job out of during their strong runs to tournaments, but the two guys mentioned are having their way in those departments.

They come off a big 99-51 win over Lancaster Bible College, hoping this ends the skid after an 0-7 start.

The team also recently switched to a zone defense, something we have not seen often from Andy Toole’s teams.

RMU holds the edge in the all-time series after beating the Eagles 64-59 in Fort Myers during their excellent 2019-20 season.

While it is hard to pick the winner of this game, expect both teams to be competitive in what should be a good matchup.