JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— The next month and a half will be engulfed by the world of March Madness.
Since March 17, 1939, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 353 Division I basketball teams compete every year for the 68 spots granted for the Big Dance at the end. Each year, new teams are featured in their attempts to be etched in history.
It has been over 33 years since the Dolphins have captured one of those spots.
Jacksonville University’s last tournament appearance came in 1986 with a loss in the first round to the Temple Owls. Therefore it is safe to say that there has been a lack of postseason celebration for the Dolphins.
Alex Ricker-Gilbert, senior vice president and athletic director has yet to have that first taste of the NCAA tournament, however, he is optimistic moving forward with the team.
“A NCAA tournament berth can do amazing things for a university as a whole, however I know things take time and the overall goal is to build a sustainable program that holds NCAA berths year after year,” said Ricker-Gilbert.
Head coach for the men’s basketball team, Tony Jasick, has also yet to embark on his first NCAA tournament appearance.
“I think it’s important to eliminate distractions moving forward the rest of the way to prepare ourselves for these next games,” said Jasick. “There will be some tweaks and wrinkles moving forward but we aren’t trying to change the wheel.”
The desire to establish the program as a top dog in the Atlantic Sun conference has been around for quite some time now, however, little progress has been made.
Even so, the drive from the players and staff has not faltered.
Junior forward Kevin Norman has yet to play in an ASUN tournament but is excited to get into the action this year.
“We have to take every game one by one and lay it all on the line for each other for us to compete at a high level,” said Norman.
The tenacity of everyone in the program is set at full throttle and they are ready to dive into the postseason.
Ricker-Gilbert was very optimistic on the team’s possibility of moving into the ASUN conference tournament, with a player such as Mo Arnold.
“Mo has gotten extremely comfortable handling the ball and being in positions to win games,” said Ricker-Gilbert. “We really love what he brings especially moving forward.”
Exposure is key for this program on all levels and there is no greater exposure than getting into the NCAA tournament and being a part of Selection Sunday.
Another point of consideration is that this ASUN tournament will be the last for some members on the team.
Dave Bell, a redshirt senior, will give his last efforts into reaching the NCAA tournament, as he has had a very impressive last hoorah of a season with the Dolphins.
“Nobody wants it more than Dave and the whole team wants it for him more than anybody,” said Ricker-Gilbert.
Bell has averaged 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds en route to the Dolphins 13-16 record.
The ASUN tournament has been underway since March 3, with the Dolphins traveling to the University of North Florida for the first round.
The Dolphins have attempted to weather the storm throughout the two losses at the hands of the Ospreys, as the three point shooting has proven to be too much for the Dolphins to handle late in games.
Transfer forward Destin Barnes is ready to get his first taste of the ASUN tournament.
“The mentality now is win or go home, it’s that simple,” said Barnes. “This is what basketball players live for, March Madness.”