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'In Dusty we trusty': Can the Owls complete the March Madness Cinderella story?

Giancarlo Rosado of the Florida Atlantic Owls shoots over Ismael Massoud of the Kansas State Wildcats during the Elite Eight round of the 2023 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Madison Square Garden on March 25.
Jamie Schwaberow
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NCAA Photos via Getty Images
Giancarlo Rosado of the Florida Atlantic Owls shoots over Ismael Massoud of the Kansas State Wildcats during the Elite Eight round of the 2023 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Madison Square Garden on March 25.

Don't sign anything without a lawyer present.

These words of wisdom are usually invoked during business negotiations and when a person is, well, trying to stay out of trouble.

In 2018, Dusty May signed up for trouble. And if he hadn't, he wouldn't have thrust himself and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) into the history books by compiling the most wins in school history; a conference regular season championship; and a Final Four berth in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Who are they? The Florida Atlantic Owls — aka an underdog team with zero NCAA Tournament wins before 2023, and arguably the chief Cinderella story for the men's 68-team bracket entering this weekend's Final Four as the #9 seed from the East Region.

Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May looks on during practice in March.
Adam Hunger / AP
/
AP
Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May looks on during practice in March.

What's the big deal? May signed a contract to become the head coach for the Owls in March of 2018 before he saw the university's basketball gym, weight room and facilities.

  • He admitted as much to CBS, saying he thought he'd "just committed career suicide" by not doing his due diligence on what he had to work with in Boca Raton.
  • May's path to FAU and his team's raisin in the sun moment has always been driven by impulse, intuition and having an imaginative spirit.
  • Those same descriptors hold true when talking about what is now the vaunted home court trap known as "The Burrow" in Boca Raton, seating just under 3,000. On a court that size, the fandom is close ... and loud!
  • Regardless of his title, responsibilities and coaching destination, May, a rural kid, has always trusted his gut. This innate inclination inspired the "In Dusty We Trusty" Final Four T-shirts. 
  • May's career has been far from all highlights, and he's had his fair share of humble pie just this year, with a notable loss to Ole Miss at the start of the season. All this just makes FAU's current Final Four run more satisfying.
  • Dusty May's coaching stints

  • 1996-00 Indiana University basketball student manager
  • 2000-02 University of Southern California video coordinator
  • 2005-06 Eastern Michigan assistant 
  • 2006-07 Murray State University assistant
  • 2007-09 University of Alabama Birmingham assistant
  • 2009-15 Louisiana Tech University assistant and associate head coach 
  • 2015-18 University of Florida assistant coach
  • 2018-present FAU head coach  
  • What are people saying? Of the seven CBS Sports experts predicting this weekend's Final Four matchups, three experts forecast FAU advancing to the National Championship game Monday night in Houston.

  • Gary Parrish says he's "taking FAU over SDSU and UConn over Miami. In the championship game, I have UConn beating Florida Atlantic to win what would be a fifth national championship in a 25-year span, giving the Huskies two more titles in that timeframe than any other school." 
  • Matt Norlander believes in FAU, saying: "The Owls are deep, and they've got a special thing going here. SDSU is a bowl of molasses to play against, but the good thing about FAU is that it can win games in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s; it's the most malleable team of the four. Owls will play on Monday night." 
  • Florida Atlantic's Brandon Weatherspoon celebrates a three-point basket against Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament's East Region final on March 25.
    Frank Franklin II / AP
    /
    AP
    Florida Atlantic's Brandon Weatherspoon celebrates a three-point basket against Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament's East Region final on March 25.


    Can't get enough of March Madness? Listen to the Consider This episode on whether this is a moment for women's college hoops.


    So, now what? Sit back (I know that's virtually impossible given the annual electricity surrounding the tournament) and tune in to see just how far May and FAU's Final Four run will go.

  • Regardless of this weekend's outcome, it's safe to say May will have a number of suitors from larger powerhouse conferences and perhaps a blue blood or two looking to offer him a contract (I'm looking at you, Indiana, where his journey began).
  • May told the student body and fans that he'd hope to see them Tuesday, a day after the National Championship.
  • Learn more:

  • An ode to March Madness, where you can always expect the unexpected
  • Women's March Madness has been wilder than ever, but can anyone catch South Carolina?
  • March Madness is an NCAA gold mine. This year, players can finally cash in too
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Jason Fuller
    [Copyright 2024 NPR]
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