Best Team

How 'bout them Owls? Coach Sidney Green, the former Runnin' Rebel and NBA journeyman player, inherited a pretty sorry bunch back in 1999. In fact, the team hardly qualified as a "bunch" at all: What with all the transfers, he suited up just seven players that year. Hardly surprising, then, when the team went 2-28; if this squad wasn't the worst in Division I, it was pretty darn close. Last year, after further attrition, Green was forced to play his freshmen, and the team actually improved -- to 7-24. For this year, he brought in some talented junior-college players to plug holes. The result: a 16-11 regular season, three hard-fought wins in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament (including the 76-75 squeaker over Georgia State in the final), and the university's first trip to the NCAA Tournament. In their first-round date with Alabama in Greenville, South Carolina, the Owls refused to lie down, matching the heavily favored Crimson Tide shot for shot for 33 minutes. Alabama finally pulled away and won, 86-78, but FAU's performance earned the program nationwide respect -- and almost cost the team its coach. Green's success at turning around the program made him a finalist for the vacant DePaul job. When the task of reviving that university's once-proud tradition fell to someone else, the brass in Boca Raton breathed a sigh of relief. Now Green will have a chance to defend his conference title and perhaps bring the pride of Palm Beach County back to the Big Dance once again.

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