March Madness 2013: FAU’s improbable Final Four run isn’t so shocking once you know these anonymous owls

NEW YORK – FAU coach Dustin greeted Davis with a big bear hug. The hour expired, the horns piped, the backboards glowed, it was a party.

Beach Boys 79, Kansas State 76. God only knows what remains to be seen for this group next weekend.

FAU, from No. The 9 seed pulled off the quintessential feel-good March Madness story — but this team isn’t without a dog, and it’s not Cinderella. At 35-3, the Nightingales were the clear seed in Sunday’s election and only proved that rating higher two weeks later. These birds of prey are exploding, hollering and flying to Houston for the Final Four fear no one.

“It’s hard for us, but we’re pit bulls and Rottweilers,” third-year player Alijah Martin said.
In the macro, all this is incredible and completely unlikely. Cry out loud and continue to convince yourself that this is the case: FAU is going to be the last quarter.

A program that didn’t exist until 1988 and the NCAA didn’t have its name until 10 days ago now at college basketball’s biggest stadium. FAU never even cracked the AP Top 25 until this season. The team that was called, the whistle, took their luck from losing to Memphis in the first round and flew with it to the final four.

This is the tournament for you.

Saturday’s thriller at Madison Square Garden. K-State Markquis Nowell rightfully won the East Regional Most Outstanding Player After scoring 30 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in a strong effort, two days removed from a memorable performance at Michigan State in the Sweet 16. Nowell was the star player. FAU is the story of this tournament. It does not have a star, and this is surprising. A mostly anonymous cast of netball players from Conference USA has once again redone the possibilities of the bracket.

FAU is tougher on Saturday. He snatched away K-State’s dream, pushing the beasts out of contention for a record eighth straight season in the elite event.

May’s group is fierce, and he was as consistent in his play on Saturday night as he has been at all times. Not only is this roster deep and experienced — they have experience with each other.

“You always have faith in what you believe will happen, but you never really know,” he says. “In this time, in which everyone wants the whole pie, these guys have continued to share the pie every day, and this is the result.”

Eight of FAU’s nine players in the first rotation spent one year at this school. That’s the thing. College basketball collectively hasn’t been this old (due to a good year of COVID) in decades.

They only play guys with at least two years of experience – and most of them have four or five.

“No macro experience, and these guys have a lot of moments under pressure,” May said.

Enrollment was made up of basketball pros, and in typical FAU fashion, they once again performed as a team against third-seeded Kansas State. Levelheaded as ever, FAU’s biggest deficit came with 11:25 to go, K-State 57-50. That’s with most middle-aged men.

Not here.

In the next few minutes, the Owls run for 100 percent or so of the period, giving the Wildcats a 22-7 lead of 72-64.

Whatever possession one might possess. You watch this team to see which guy will be there from one moment to the next.

“The tenacity is right,” Utinam said.

It was Alijah Martin’s 3-pointer to make it 70-64 going into the middle, and on the next possession, Martin sank two foul shots with 2:42 left to extend the lead to 72-64. FAU won’t win on Saturday without Martin and his team’s high 17 points. Who is this man? Once Martin made a Photoshop submission to McNeese State. He flipped to FAU recently after another player de-committed from FAU. This was the first COVID-19 signature program; They got him to take a tour of the field in a golf cart with an iPad on FaceTime.

The stories and decisions that make the Final Four fairytale.

“We love being around him, and it shows on the court,” Martin said.

Martin’s offensive rebound after an offensive shot allowed Davis to sink a bucket and give FAU a 74-69 lead with 1:15 remaining.

Davis. FAU makes it to the final four because of guys like Davis. Whom they call “Nelly.” The FAU coaches often called Nelly and tried to do it. He would say yes. But they listen to heavy basketball. Nelly’s turned, and on Saturday he had 13 points and six assists to knock down the owls.

FAU also reached the final four thanks to Mike Forrest, a cool-headed fifth-year senior who sank four free throws in the final 17.9 seconds to clinch it. Salto became the first May recruit at FAU, a well-respected guy with multiple state championships

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