Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple days, you’ve heard the news; the Florida Gators will play Cinderella story Florida Gulf Coast in their Sweet Sixteen matchup on Friday night in Arlington, Texas. You read that right, Florida Gulf Coast, the first number fifteen seed to ever advance to the Sweet Sixteen during the 75 years of the NCAA tournament.
Let me be one of the first to introduce you to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. First off, they hail from Fort Myers, Florida just south of Tampa on the west coast; not Fort Lauderdale, which Scottie Wilbekin guessed when asked about the school’s location in an interview. The Eagles entered the NCAA tournament with a 26-10 record after earning an automatic bid by winning the Atlantic Sun conference tournament.
These Eagles are somewhat sporadic. While you’ve most likely heard of FGCU’s 12 point victory over Miami earlier this year and a supposed planned then cancelled scrimmage with the Gators; the same Eagles team also lost to a 12-18 Lipscomb team twice.
There is no denying the nation is falling in love with this FGCU team. Sherwood Brown, the Atlantic Sun player of the year, even blew kisses to the crowd as his team finished off San Diego State in the round of 32 on Sunday. This team is made for Hollywood; let me break it down for you.
- ·Their coach, Andy Enfield is married to super model Amanda Marcus Enfield, for you convenience, here she is.
- ·Enfield played at division III Johns Hopkins where he is currently their all time leading scorer and NCAA record holder for career free throw percentage (92.5%).
- ·Enfield has not always been a coach; he made a ton of money out of college when he created a contract management service called Tract-Manager.
- ·After finishing with his business startup, Enfield was an assistant on staffs at the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and most recently, the Florida State Seminoles.
- ·The Eagles have only had on-campus students since 1997, been a division I program for just six years and post-season eligible for merely two.
- ·They play a fast-tempo, street ballesque style of basketball and have assumed the title of “Dunk City”. There is even a recent music video to go along with it…
Alright, I know, enough already. It is certainly almost too good to be true that this Cinderella will face off against the state basketball power that is the Florida Gators on one of the biggest stages possible when they meet in Cowboys stadium Friday night. Florida will certainly present a new challenge for this Eagles team, as they have yet to face an offense that is even close to as prolific as Florida’s. Looking at offensive efficiency rankings, Florida ranks third in the country, whereas FGCU victims Georgetown and San Diego State rank 67th and 79th respectively. Florida Gulf Coast? They rank 114th. On paper it seems like a beyond favorable matchup for the Gators, but as we all know, anything can happen in the NCAA tournament when a team get’s hot. Billy Donovan is no stranger to such a situation, “What happens I think sometimes publicly is, when games start, they’re always, for the tournament and the excitement of it, they’re always looking at the seeds. This is a higher seed, this is an upset. This is not an upset. Listen, it’s amazing to me. Every year there are upsets, as people like to put it. I don’t know why anybody’s surprised any more. Everybody that’s in this NCAA tournament is a really, really good team. And if you don’t play well, you’re going to probably have a hard time winning the game.”
It will certainly be Gator Nation versus the nation when Florida hits the court in Arlington. This is not a role the Gators haven’t played before though; Florida dominated Final Four surprise George Mason in 2006 on the Gators way to their first national title and quickly ended No. 15 seed Norfolk State’s hopes last season after the Spartans first round upset of Mizzouri. When asked about Florida, FGCU star Sherwood Brown said, “I never played against Florida before. I’ve seen them play a bit. I know they are a really good team.” FGCU coach Andy Enfield was cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances against the Gators. “We know they can be beaten, but we also have an unbelievable amount of respect for them. They have one of the best programs and have the success that all of us want to have one day.”
The Gators will certainly not overlook this Eagle team after the media frenzy that has surrounded the program following their opening round upsets. Donovan admittedly said he hadn’t watched FGCU before when asked about the matchup Sunday, but said he “looked forward” to reviewing tape of the Gator’s next opponent. When Donovan was asked about the FGCU upsets, he was far from surprised, “If you follow college basketball, it happens all the time. I think our guys are smart enough and been around, when you line up in college basketball, you’d better be ready to play.” Donovan will undoubtedly have his Gators ready to play Friday night in hopes of making the clock strike twelve on this Cinderella.