By Robbie Lastella
Field of 68 tip-off
Scheduling for successful non Power 5 programs is something that is never easy. Over the summer, the great minds at the Field of 68 came up with an incredible idea to help try to alleviate that for 3 top-tier Non power 5 programs.
That idea was the “Field of 68 Tip-off” a round robin event between FAU, Liberty, and the College of Charleston, which will be played every year at each of the schools. An event like this allows for these programs to compete against each other at a high level early in the season, while also providing a resume booster for the winning teams.
The first rendition of this event was a budding success, at least if you ask FAU Coach Dusty May.
“What an honor to be a part of the first field of 68 event. They were first class, it was a really cool deal against 2 great Non-power 5 majors. I’m not using the words mid major because those dudes can play basketball. It’s an honor to be included in things like this and they did an unbelievable job, media coverage just making this a big deal for those of us who have players who deserve things like this,” Coach May said after the victory against Charleston.
So how about those players? Each team’s stars were on full display in this round robin event. Although Liberty came out of this event 0-2, Kyle Rode had a bounce back performance in game 2- not letting the struggles against FAU bother him, dropping 18 points and keeping his team in it against Charleston.
For Charleston, Ben Burnham dropped 18 himself in a 76-67 win over Liberty and Reyne Smith was dominating early against FAU- having 14 and a barrage of 3’s before unfortunately leaving with an ankle injury. After the game against FAU Charleston coach Pat Kelsey talked about how he was happy with his teams preparation and mentality throughout the event.
“I loved our guys mentality coming in here. The moment wasn’t too big for them, the venue wasn’t too big for them, the stakes, the caliber of the game…I love our teams approach to just pursuing excellence and focusing on the next thing and that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Coach Kelsey said.
And for the hosting Owls, game 1 against Liberty was a dominating offensive performance highlighted by 18 points from Vlad & 20 from Alijah Martin in an 83-58 victory. Game 2 was a bit of a test- and the Owls passed. A dominant second half performance and 15 second half points from Johnell Davis gave him 24 on the night and a comeback 90-74 victory.
That game marked the end of this year’s edition of the Field of 68 tip-off and it was a major success with many highlights for all the schools involved, but especially the host school FAU. These games were the first of a handful of home games broadcast on linear ESPN for the school- with the FAU featured games being broadcast on ESPNU announced by Mike Corey & Perry Clark. Clark spoke on the atmosphere of FAU on the broadcast.
“What an atmosphere here, this is BIG TIME college atmosphere. If you cannot get pumped up in this place you cannot get pumped up,” Clark said.
What a great and well deserved spotlight on the student section atmosphere that has built its way from the ground up, to compete with some of the most raucous student sections in the country.
As for the tip-off classic, it will take a break before returning to Charleston next year- something Charleston coach Pat Kelsey is looking forward too.
“They’re (FAU) is coming back to our house next year so we’ll have an opportunity to compete again and we look forward to it,” Kelsey said.
This Tip-off classic had everything- from great crowds, to great competition and even brought out the fiery side of Coach May. It was enjoyed by many and next year’s rendition should be just as good if not better.