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Last season, FAU was 1-7 in games decided by five points or less. The Elite Eight win over Kansas State improved FAU to 11-1 in games decided by that margin this season. “Beach Boys of Boca Raton” is the moniker they earned because of their picturesque campus, but Martin prefers a deviation from that nickname.

“We’re some pit bulls and rottweilers,” Martin boasted in FAU’s postgame presser. We go out there and show it every night. Just label — just call us ‘Beast Boys,’ you know, because we’re going to come out and show you how it’s done.”

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Call them the “Beast Boys”

The Beast Boys’ offense proved their mettle in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight by varying their attack all night. Davis, Greenlee, and Martin took turns moving the ball around the perimeter, searching for gaps to exploit in Kansas State’s defense. FAU point guard Bryan Greenlee scored 16 points. Martin delivered a team-high 17. Meanwhile, Nowell was an energizer bunny and a mighty mouse darting into crevices in the defense, registering 12 of Kansas State’s 14 assists. FAU secured 17 assists as a team.

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Yet, for all of Nowell’s heliocentric glory, FAU overwhelmed him with a team offense that thrived on off-ball movement, a democratic scoring system and off-ball backdoor cuts. Goldin secured a double-double of his own. Davis made the game-winning steal. Four players scored in double-figures compared to only two Wildcats.

FAU played within their offense, while Nowell starred as the offense. He played the entire Elite Eight matchup against FAU. Nowell logged 43 minutes vs. Michigan State, 40 vs Kentucky, 37 in their win over Montana State, and 38 against TCU. To his credit, he couldn’t be stopped, compiling 47 assists during Kansas State’s run through the tournament.

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Coupled with 30 points and five steals, Nowell was the sole proprietor of the ball in Kansas State’s offense. With Keyontae Johnson playing on the defensive end with both hands tied behind his back due to foul trouble for the second half, Nowell scored or assisted on 55 of Kansas State’s 76 points.

At the beginning of the second half, FAU withstood an early run from Kansas State when Johnson returned from another bench sabbatical. But Johnson was only able to chip in nine points in 18 minutes of action. Nowell didn’t go down without a fight. He was a gnat defensively, deflected balls in passing lanes, and forced FAU point guard Bryan Greenlee into critical mistakes. With 12 minutes remaining, Nowell pulled up from the logo and sank one of the hero-ball triples he’d been clanking all tournament, then forced a turnover on the other end by leaping into the passing lanes and scaring Greenlee into bouncing an errant pass out of bounds. He banked another deep 3-pointer four minutes later. Unfortunately, Nowell was overwhelmed by FAU’s strength in numbers.

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“Well, I said earlier that — there are no such things as dictionaries anymore, I don’t think, but if you Wiki our team, it would be — the word “team,” it would be a picture of our guys,” May explained after FAU’s win.

A decade ago, the last 9-seed before FAU to advance to the Final Four were the 2013 Wichita State Shockers, which possessed All-Americans in Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Cleanthony Early. With all due respect, that caliber of singular talent doesn’t exist on the Owls’ roster. Yet, this doesn’t feel like one of those Final Four Cinderellas that reaches the final weekend and turns back into pumpkins. If there were ever a true mid-major that could earn a college hoops crown, it’s this one.