(SportsNetwork.com) - The 2015 Atlantic Sun Tournament kicks off on Tuesday, March 3, with a slate of four quarterfinal-round games as the push to crown a conference champion begins.
Last season, Mercer came away victorious and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after taking down Florida Gulf Coast in the championship game, 68-60. In the offseason, the Bears departed for the Southern Conference.
North Florida earned the top overall seed in the Atlantic Sun in 2014-15 after garnering a 20-11 overall record with a 12-2 mark in conference play. The Ospreys are led by Dallas Moore, an all-conference selection, who enters the tournament averaging 15.4 ppg. Beau Beech was named a unanimous selection for all-conference honors after helping guide the Ospreys to their first-ever A- Sun title. He finished the season with a 15.9 ppg mark against league opponents, and averaged 5,5 rpg for the season. North Florida junior forward Demarcus Daniels picked up the league's Defensive Player of the Year award, and Matthew Driscoll was the unanimous choice as the A-Sun Coach of the Year. The Ospreys take on eighth-seeded Stetson in the first round.
Florida Gulf Coast finished the season as the number two seed, and will face seventh-seeded Jacksonville on Tuesday. The Eagles ended the year at 21-9 overall, with an 11-3 mark in conference. Point guard Brett Comer was named to the all-conference team, and set the career assists record in the league after posting 10 double-digit assist games this season. Jacksonville's Kori Babineaux was named the A-Sun's Newcomer of the Year after he averaged 14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.0 apg and 1.6 spg. Jacksonville beat FGCU in the regular- season finale, 75-67.
Third-seeded USC Upstate takes on sixth-seeded Kennesaw State in the quarterfinal round. The Spartans were led this season by Ty Greene, who earned a unanimous selection to the all-conference team after finishing as the Atlantic Sun's player of the year. The senior guard averaged 20.1 ppg after attaining 17 20-point contests. He posted a 39-point outing against top-seeded North Florida earlier this season, and was tabbed as the league's Freshman of the Year back in 2012. The Spartans earned the sweep of Kennesaw State during the regular season, but will have to recover from losses in two of their last three outings.
Fourth-seeded Northern Kentucky will face fifth-seeded Lipscomb on Tuesday. The Norse didn't fare so well in non-conference play with a 13-16 overall record, but the team picked it up a bit when A-Sun action began. NKU finished the season at 7-7 in league play, and will take on a Bison squad with an identical 7-7 league ledger. Josh Williams led Lipscomb with 17.2 ppg and was named as the fifth and final player on the all-conference team. He'll have to tangle with Northern Kentucky's Freshman of the Year Award winner Tayler Persons, who averaged 13.1 points, 4.5 caroms and 3.7 assists per outing.
The winners from each round will be re-seeded and meet in the semifinals on Thursday, March 5. The championship game is set to take place on Sunday, March 8.
Sports Network Predicted Champion: Florida Gulf Coast