Throw it down: FGCU last remaining teams without a conference loss

Dec 22, 2017; Wichita, KS, USA; Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Dinero Mercurius (31) drives to the basket against Wichita State Shockers during the first half at Charles Koch Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Ross-USA TODAY Sports Images
Kelly Ross-USA TODAY Sports

At Florida Gulf Coast, the men’s and women’s basketball teams have much in common.

Members of the coaching staffs get along, regularly collaborating on ideas. The teams practice in succession, one team getting off the floor while the other is getting set to go to work. There’s even seven doubleheader dates on the schedule, the team that’s not playing sometimes becoming a cheering section for the other.

“In a sense we play for each other,” women’s senior guard Taylor Gradinjan said. “We don’t want to be the team to let the other down, and vice versa.”

So far, so good.

FGCU stands alone right now — the only school in Division I basketball to still be undefeated in men’s and women’s conference play. There’s 349 schools offering both men’s and women’s basketball across 32 conferences in Division I, and 348 of them have seen at least one of their teams fall in a league game this season.

Not the Eagles. Once again, the place known as Dunk City in honor of its scintillating Sweet Sixteen men’s tournament run in 2013 is finding ways to get noticed.

“It’s pretty good for us, pretty good for our mojo,” men’s senior guard Brandon Goodwin said. “I know the women’s team sees some of us sitting in the stands during games and they’re fun to watch. My favorite thing watching them is their bench, how excited they get when someone scores, someone draws a charge, things like that. That’s what a winning program looks like and that energy is invested in us when we play.”

The school in southwest Florida with a beach on its sunsoaked campus has sent either its men’s team, women’s team, or both to the NCAA tournament in each of the last six seasons, and looks like it may extend that streak. The FGCU men (17-8) are 8-0 so far in Atlantic Sun games and the women (20-3) take a 6-0 league mark into a game at North Florida on Thursday night.

“We try to ground them a little bit, show them the things that are keeping us from being as good a team as we’re capable of being,” FGCU women’s coach Karl Smesko said. “We try to challenge our kids to keep getting better and make improvements and look at some of the things they’re doing to see if there’s any way they can be more productive or better.”

That can’t be comforting news to the Eagles’ A-Sun opponents.

Both teams have won 10 consecutive games. That means the Eagles have the seventh-longest active streak in men’s basketball, the 10th-longest active run in women’s basketball.

“Success kind of pushes each program,” Smesko said. “There’s high expectations here for every program to be successful.”