Florida Gulf Coast makes history in tournament

William Burns

On Friday, March 22, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles caused a big stir in the NCAA tournament by defeating the Georgetown Hoyas, 78-68.

The win marked the third time in the past two years that a No. 15 seed upset a No. 2 seed in the first round of tournament, boosting the No. 15 seed’s record to 7-109 all-time.

FGCU then followed up the big upset with another ten-point win over No.7 San Diego State on Sunday, March 24. The win earned the Eagles a place in the fourth round of the NCAA tournament.

Let me repeat myself to make sure that this is fully understood and appreciated. The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, a No. 15 seed and a team that has only been in Div. I play for six years, has made the Sweet Sixteen.

Take a moment, if you need it. I’ll be here when you come back to reality.

This marks the first time a No. 15 seed has ever made it to the Sweet Sixteen and FGCU will have a big test ahead of them as they will face their big brother school, the University of Florida, on Friday, March 29.

The Eagles have earned the right to be called the Cinderella team in this year’s tournament. FGCU’s wins have been so intriguing to watch that it made No. 9 Wichita State’s win over No. 1 Gonzaga look almost routine. I have to remind myself that No. 1 seed fell this week in the round of 32.

So how did a school that has only been eligible for tournament play for two years find a way get by Georgetown and San Diego State? Well, when athletes like Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson and Brett Comer put on electrifying performances, how couldn’t they find a way?

During the second round of tournament play, I was more interested in seeing games like Temple vs. North Carolina State and Creighton vs. Cincinnati than watching a good Georgetown team play the no-name Atlantic Sun Conference Champion. However, as team games were being played, I kept my eye on the scores on top of my television screen and began to notice that Georgetown wasn’t pulling away from FGCU. In fact, the Eagles even had a two point lead at halftime.

My initial thought was FGCU was excited to be in their tournament debut and caught the Hoyas off-guard. Georgetown will get it done in the second half. Boy, was I wrong.

The second half of the game is when the Eagles, not the Hoyas, got it done. FGCU outscored Georgetown, 54-48, in the second half and, even with Hoyas making a last minute run and cutting the lead down to four points, the dazzling performance and incredible athleticism was too much for Georgetown to handle.

In the third round match, the Eagles played a similar game against San Diego State. FGCU kept it close in the first half. Down by one point to the Aztecs at halftime, the Eagles turned on that second half magic and outscored SDSU, 47-36, to get another 10-point win.

So are the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles a legitimate contender? They are entertaining, to say the least. In fact, the television ratings for the NCAA tournament are the highest they have been in the past 23 years. However, to say the Eagles are going to win their game over Florida and follow it up by taking on the biggest names in college basketball might be taking a bit too far. Should FGCU get the win over Florida, they would face an even bigger challenge as they would get to take on the winner of the Michigan vs. Kansas game.

There is no question that Florida Gulf Coast has captivated the nation during their run in the tournament. Not to mention, they have certainly busted a lot of brackets over the weekend. While I am not personally going to crown the Eagles just yet, don’t think for a minute that this No. 15 seed can’t reach the Elite Eight.

When Cinderella puts on that glass slipper, everyone wants to go to the dance.