The Madness of March: By now you are all probably aware of who and where Florida Gulf Coast University is. However, before all of this madness began, they sounded like a made up college straight out of a Disney movie in which a team of lovable losers is lead by a hardball coach and go from zeros to heroes.
But Florida Gulf Coast University isn’t a fairytale, just ask Georgetown or San Diego State and they will tell you they are as real as can be.
The Eagles story began at the end of their regular season. Finishing at 24-10 overall and in second place behind Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Conference at 13-5 , FGCU fought their way through their conference tournament and surprisingly won to punch their ticket to this year’s big dance.
Then FGCU drew second seeded Georgetown as a 15 seed. Georgetown had spent the regular season atop the Big East with Louisville finishing in second place with a 14-4 conference mark going 25-7 overall. The Hoyas appeared poised to end their streak of early tournament exits and make a run in this year’s big dance behind the play of forward Otto Porter Jr. and Co. Unfortunately for Georgetown, the Eagles had a date with destiny.
Dunk City: March 22nd, 2013: The Eagles went neck and neck with the Hoyas in the first half of their first round battle with Georgetown. Impressively, FGCU hung with the tournament seasoned Big East bruisers, in what was the teams first ever tournament appearance. The Eagles would lead by two at the half by a score of 24-22.
The second half began and the unimaginable happened, The Eagles slowly but surely went on a 21-2 second half scoring run to stun Georgetown, bust brackets across the country and show the world what Dunk City was all about.
The signature moment of this first-round shocker came late in the game when FGCU point guard Brett Comer threw up an alley-oop from the corner and found forward Chase Fieler who sent the crowd into a frenzy with a one-handed jam for the finish. (As Shown Below)
FGCU became only the seventh 15 seed in the history of the tournament to beat a number two seed. Not to mention the Eagles didn’t just defeat Georgetown, they won by an impressive 10 point margin over the Hoyas. FGCU guards Sherwood Brown (24 pts) and Bernard Thompson (23 pts) led the Eagles in scoring and helped pace them to a 78-68 victory.
It would be more of the same on March 24th when Dunk City took on San Diego State in the tournaments second round of games. The Aztecs led by a point at the half (35-34). However, the Eagles were not to be denied and came roaring into the second half, led once more by Thompson (23pts) and Brown (17pts), to finish with another 10 point victory 81-71. (Highlights of FGCU’s history making tourney play can be seen below)
FGCU beating the Aztecs and advancing to the Sweet 16 marks the first time in tournament history that a 15 seed has ever made it that far.
Fun Facts About FGCU:
Here are some notes on the Eagles from their athletic website fgcuathletics.com.
The Players for FGCU are older than the college itself, as the university was established in 1997 (only 16-years-old).
FGCU started their athletics program in 2002-2003.
FGCU entered Division I in 2007-2008.
FGCU became post-season eligible in 2011-2012.
FGCU is located in Fort Myers, FL (also home to the Red Sox during Spring Training)
Head coach Andy Enfield became the bench boss in 2011.
Before taking the job in Fort Myers Enfield began his coaching career as a shooting coach for then head coach Mike Dunleavy and the Milwaukee Bucks from 1994-1996.
Enfield went on from the Bucks to Boston where he was an assistant coach under then head coach Rick Pitino for the Celtics from 1998-2000 where he worked with then rookie Paul Pierce on his shooting.
Finally, before taking the job with FGCU, Enfield was an assistant coach for Florida State University from 2006-2011. Enfield helped lead the Seminoles to a pair of sweet 16 finishes in the big dance during his time in Tallahassee.
Final Thoughts: Fort Myers-Slamma-Jamma, Dunk City, FGCU, the Eagles, whatever you want to call them, have shocked the nation and made their mark in college basketball.
When they play the third seeded Florida Gators this Friday, they won’t be wearing a ball gown or be running up and down the court in glass slippers, they will be in uniform just like UF and will play 40 minutes of high octane, in your face, no fear in their eyes basketball, just like everybody else.
If/When the Eagles defeat Florida this Friday to continue their tournament journey, don’t call it an UPSET…call it for what it will be…a WIN. Florida Gulf Coast University is no longer Cinderella…they’re Competition.