2015-16 College Basketball Previews: North Florida Ospreys

Romelo Banks (33), Chris Davenport (35), and the rest of the North Florida Ospreys look to make it back-to-back Atlantic Sun titles in 2015-16, as they return a star-studded roster filled with talent and experience.
Romelo Banks (33), Chris Davenport (35), and the rest of the North Florida Ospreys look to make it back-to-back Atlantic Sun titles in 2015-16, as they return a star-studded roster filled with talent and experience.

The 2014-15 season was a breakthrough campaign for the North Florida Ospreys in the Atlantic Sun Conference. They were one of the younger teams in the conference, but that didn’t seem to phase them one bit.

Not only did the Ospreys win the regular season conference title, but they also won the Atlantic Sun tournament title. The tournament win sent the team to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Ospreys were awarded with a First Four game against Robert Morris, in which they lost 81 – 77.

Despite the loss to the Colonials, there was a ton of optimism and hype surrounding the program for the 2015-16 season, and for good reason. The Ospreys will look to make it back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2015-16.

Below, we take a look at what we can expect from the 2015-16 edition of the North Florida Ospreys.

Who’s Missing

The North Florida Ospreys had a lot of talent on last year’s team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and most of those players will be back in 2015-16. However, a key piece of the offense has graduated and moved onto bigger and better things.

Senior guard Jalen Nesbitt graduated following the 2014-15 season, and has recently signed with Heffingen (Luxembourg) to play professional basketball in Europe. As a senior, Nesbitt averaged 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game on 47.3% shooting from the floor.

His 10.9 points per game were good for fourth-best on the team.

With him, he takes his veteran leadership and all-around talent to Europe. He started in all 35 games as a senior, and was a big piece of the Ospreys’ game plans on both offense and defense.

Who’s Returning

It’s tough to pinpoint where to begin when referring to the players returning for the Ospreys in 2015-16, as they have a ton of talent returning all over the floor.

Their top three scorers from a season all return, headlined by guard Dallas Moore. The sharp-shooting junior guard out of St. Petersburg, FL averaged a team-high 15.8 points per game on 48.1% shooting from the floor and 38.9% from three point range. Moore still has a season of eligibility remaining after this year, and will only get better as his career progresses.

Add in 6’8” swingman Beau Beech and forward Chris Davenport, and head coach Matthew Driscoll and the Ospreys have top-tier offensive options all over the floor. Beech averaged 12.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game a year ago, while Davenport chipped in with 11.3 points and 6.5 points per contest.

The talents of the three players above have been well-documented and are the players people think of when they talk about the North Florida Ospreys. However, two returnees who aren’t discussed as much could be equally as important to the success of the Ospreys in 2015-16.

Their names: Romelo Banks and Demarcus Daniels.

Romelo Banks is a 6’11”, 235-pound center who started all 35 games for the Ospreys a season ago. In 17 minutes per game, he averaged 5.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and recorded 18 blocks over the course of the season. Due to his size, he’s a lock for a starting position with the Ospreys, as he anchors the front court. However, he needs to become more of an impact player on the defensive end of the floor. If he can develop into a stronger rebounder and shot blocker, his game will go to the next level and the Ospreys will continue their ascent into mid-major stardom.

While Banks started every game a year ago, Demarcus Daniels didn’t start in a single contest. Daniels appeared in 31 contests, averaging 24.6 minutes per game. Despite never starting, he served as an invaluable part of the team off the bench, averaging 9.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. This year looks to be the year that Daniels cracks the starting five on a regular basis for North Florida, meaning fans everywhere should see a spike in production from the native of Ashburn, GA.

The duo of Banks and Daniels, alongside Beech, give the Ospreys a size advantage over a lot of teams in the front court. Add in their talent, and it’s easy to see why there’s a lot of optimism around the team this year.

Projected Starting Five

Guard: Dallas Moore (JR)

Guard: Trent Mackey (R-SR)

Guard/Forward: Beau Beech (SR)

Forward: Demarcus Daniels (SR)

Center: Romelo Banks (JR)

Schedule Notes

On the heels of a successful campaign a year ago, the Ospreys have a daunting non-conference schedule ahead of them in 2015-16. They have road dates against four teams from Power Five conferences, and another three against top level teams in the Atlantic 10 conference.

The Ospreys open up the year against an Illinois team who are without point guard Tracy Abrams for the second straight season due to injury. La Salle transfer Khalid Lewis will take his place, but time will tell how well he can adjust and fit into their systems.

After a mini two-game home stand, the Ospreys take part in the Barclays Center Classic, which includes road dates at Louisville and Saint Louis. A home date with Trinity Baptist closes out the month of November, and the road doesn’t get any easier.

Road affairs at LSU and Dayton kick off the month of December before the Ospreys return home for a key four-game home stand. The Ospreys welcome Coastal Carolina, Florida International, Austin Peay, and Florida A&M to Jacksonville, FL, all of which are winnable games for North Florida. Coastal Carolina lost some key pieces from a season ago, and won’t be as dominant as they have been in past years.

To close out non-conference play, North Florida will pay visits to Arkansas, VCU, and Eastern Michigan before visiting Stetson to open up conference play.

In the Atlantic Sun this year, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles and the newcomers N.J.I.T. Highlanders will be their top competition. Fans of the Ospreys should circle these two teams on their calendar, as these four contests will likely go a long way in determining the regular season champion, and seeding in the conference tournament.

Season Predictions

There’s no denying that the North Florida Ospreys are one of the nation’s more talented mid-major programs. They have the look of the top team in the conference, and will likely bring home the pre-season accolade of being the conference winner come March. If they can get through their tough non-conference slate with a near-.500 record, they will be in great position moving forwards.

In terms of individual players, Beau Beech and Dallas Moore have the potential to be in the running for the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year award. If they can put up big numbers again this season, and Demarcus Daniels and Romelo Banks can anchor the front court, the Ospreys will likely be the ones punching their ticket to their second-straight NCAA Tournament come March.

– T.B.