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Ohio Bobcats vs. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Preview: Can Ohio top Dunk City?

The Bobcats will face their toughest opponent of the young season when they take on Florida Gulf Coast, a talented team that has recently risen to prominence.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of programs are content to cruise through November by steamrolling D-2 teams and D-1 bottom feeders, but that isn't the case for Saul Phillips. Ohio's head coach said he wanted to challenge his team in 2014 to make sure they were ready for MAC play in 2015. That preparation included this summer's tournament in Canada, and it continues Wednesday night when the Bobcats take on the Florida Gulf Coast University.

FGCU has only existed since 1991, making it as old as some college seniors, and the basketball program has been in the public eye for a considerably shorter time. The program joined Division II in 2002, and moved up to D-I five years later.

But it was the 2013 NCAA Tournament that put the program - and heck, the school - on the map. The Eagles absolutely dominated #2 seed Georgetown in the first round, then showed they were no fluke by beating #7 San Diego State 81-71. #3 Florida ended the Eagles' season, and the team failed to return to the tournament in 2014 after losing the Atlantic Sun Conference championship to Mercer (who, you remember, defeated Duke this past March).

The Eagles are no longer the high-flying "Dunk City" of 2013, but they have the ability to go just as far. Led by head coach Joe Dooley, FGCU is the favorite to take the Atlantic Sun title and return to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles have won their first two games of the season, defeating Nova Southeastern and UC Santa Barbara. Come tipoff Wednesday night, the school's Alico Arena (capacity: 4,663) should be packed.

"This will be as hostile of an environment as you can ask for," Phillips said. "A lot of times, those big crowds in smaller gyms can be tougher to handle than big crowds in big gyms... I'm looking forward to it."

The Eagles will be led by seniors Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson in the back court, a dangerous combination of two guards that know how to shoot and move the ball.

"Comer is really, really good at passing the basketball... we've got to contain him. When you've got a point guard like Comer, you're going to be good, there's no way you're going to be bad. Watching Comer play will be terrific for the development of our young guards," Phillips noted.

The Bobcats will look to build upon a strong performance against the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Saturday. Ohio completely dominated every facet of the game and saw strong performances from their two freshmen, Mike Laster and particularly Ryan Taylor. Both should start against FCGU, along with seniors Maurice Ndour and Stevie Taylor. Javarez "Bean" Willis will return from his one game suspension, while Treg Setty will serve his suspension and will be unavailable to play against the Eagles.