The University of North Florida Ospreys head into the NCAA Tournament with a 23-11 record after winning the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. The Ospreys, the conference’s regular season champions, defeated USC-Upstate 63-57 to earn a trip to the Big Dance.
The Ospreys, coached by Matthew Driscoll, earned a big upset in December, a 73-70 victory at Purdue. The team also played competitively at another Big 10 foe in December, losing at Iowa 80-70, and in November, falling 69-67 at Northwestern.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Ospreys Are Heading to March Madness For the First Time in School History
North Florida is making its first trip to the Division 1 NCAA Tournament. The Ospreys became a full-time Division 1 team in 2009 and did not get past the semifinals in the A-Sun tournament until this year.
The Ospreys rolled past their rival, Jacksonville, and Lipscomb in the first two rounds of the tournament before facing USC-Upstate, the No. 3 seed, in the championship game March 8. The Ospreys led by nine at the half and overcame an 11-0 run by Upstate in the second half to win the conference title.
2. Dallas Moore is the Ospreys’ Leading Scorer
Sophomore guard Dallas Moore leads the high-scoring Ospreys with 15.9 points per game. Moore scored a career-high 36 points in North Florida’s win over Lipscomb in the A-10 semifinals.
The Ospreys were 26th overall in the nation in scoring, averaging 75.7 ppg as a team.
Four other Ospreys averaged double digit points this season, led by junior guard/forward Beau Beech (12.5 ppg), along with sophomore forward Chris Davenport (11.5) and senior guard Jalen Nesbitt (10.8). Junior Demarcus “BaeBae” Daniels averaged just under 10 points a game and was the A-Sun tournament’s Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high 22 points in the championship game.
Here’s the Ospreys full roster:
G Jalen Nesbitt (6-6, 198, Jr., Lakeland, Florida)
G/F Beau Beech (6-8, 210, Jr., Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)
G Chase Driscoll (5-8, 170, Fr., Jacksonville, Florida)
G Devin Wilson (5-11, 176, Sr., Gainesville, Florida)
G Trent Mackey (6-3, 184, R-Jr., Tampa, Florida)
G Aaron Bodager (6-5, 205, R-So., Oviedo, Florida)
G Dallas Moore (6-1, 175, So., St. Petersburg, Florida)
C Ismaila Dauda (6-9, 250, Sr., Kano, Nigeria)
G Nick Malonga (6-4, 197, So., Bolingbrook, Illinois)
F Demarcus Daniels (6-7, 195, Jr., Ashburn, Georgia)
C Romelo Banks (6-11, 235, So., Kissimmee, Florida)
F Chris Davenport (6-8, 210, So., Atlanta, Georgia)
3. Driscoll Has Led the Ospreys Since 2009
Head Coach Matthew Driscoll was hired in 2009 heading into North Florida’s first full season in the Division 1. He took the Ospreys to their first A-Sun tournament and now leads them to the first March Madness appearance in school history.
A Pittsburgh native, the 50-year-old Driscoll was a longtime assistant before coming to North Florida. He has served as an assistant at Wyoming, Clemson and, most recently, Baylor. He was named the A-Sun’s Coach of the year this season.
4. The Ospreys Come From the Same Conference as ‘Dunk City’
North Florida will hope to follow in the footsteps of its conference foe Florida Gulf Coast, which went on a magical run to the Sweet 16 two seasons ago and earned the nickname “Dunk City” for the high-flying showcase the Eagles put on.
Last season Mercer, then a member of the A-Sun, upset Duke in the NCAA tournament. Mercer left the conference this season for the SoCon.
5. The School is Located in Jacksonville
The University of North Florida is located in Jacksonville. The public university opened in 1965 and is home to about 14,000 undergraduate students, according to the U.S. News and World Report.
Notable alumni include ESPN’s Sara Walsh, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Todd Haley and America’s Next Top Model winner Yoanna House.