By Alex Mantz and Jonathan Pressley
The Florida SouthWestern Buccaneers men’s basketball team captured their first number-1 ranking in history on Jan. 29, taking the crown from defending NJCAA national champion, South Plains College, who lost earlier in the week to an unranked opponent.
The 24-1 Bucs have won 13 straight games since Dec. 9, when they lost to Northwest Florida State College, then the top-ranked team in the country.
The Bucs, who average 91 points per game, have won many contests by wide margins, topping 100 points eight times this season
“We play twelve guys most of the time, thirteen, sometimes, and part of our game plan is to wear the other team down,” said Eric Murphy head coach of the Bucs. “If you’re playing eight guys, and we’re playing twelve, and we don’t have a drop off, which I don’t think we do, we’re going to continue being fresh and hopefully by the second half, we break the game open.”
The Jan. 23 game against St. Petersburg College at Suncoast Credit Union Arena was a case in point.
FSW led 35-27 at the half but pulled away in the second half to a 95-74 win.
This was also the strategy of last year’s team, when Murphy was an assistant under Marty Richter, who departed for Drake University in Iowa. Murphy says year’s team played faster, but this year’s squad has more size in the post.
“That’s the biggest difference from the team from last year to the team from this year,” Murphy said. “Our big guys this year have improved. DeShawn [Thomas] and Tyler [Morman] were freshman last year. They were just learning how to play college basketball. And this year, they are ready players.”
Murphy also recruited 6-foot-10 forward, Simeon Kirkland, who played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida last season.
“We played against him last year,” Murphy said. “Having front court depth and those guys developing has helped our team because they have to guard those guys.”
Last year’s team went to the Florida state tournament and received an at-large bid to the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. As the number-1 team in the country, the Bucs believe they deserve a return trip to nationals in March.