Florida Gulf Coast plays in their very first Sweet 16 tonight versus the Florida Gators. FGCU was founded in 1991, and their basketball program is only in it's second year of eligibility. They have what is, most likely, one of the five smallest recruiting budgets in the entire nation. Almost no one outside of Fort Meyers had even heard of the university prior to their run in this year's tournament. They are the first team since the 1987 Florida Gators to win two games in their first ever NCAA tournament. They are also the lowest seeded team ever to make the Sweet 16. FGCU is severely over-matched in this game and their Cinderella story will likely come to an end at the hands of their cross-state "rival". Whether the story ends tonight or not though is largely irrelevant. FGCU has already made a name for themselves and have given us what may be the most unbelievable story in the history of the NCAA, if not all of sports. How did this team make it so far, and why are they such a phenomenon?
They play a style of basketball that is incredibly fun to watch. They are playing very loose and carefree, even dancing on the sidelines during successful stretches of games. Head coach Andy Enfield has the team playing a very fast-paced, team oriented offense that the nation has fallen in love with. The team has managed to have ten dunks in their first two games (though from watching the games it seems like even more than that) and their sophomore point guard, Brett Comer, is tied for the second most assists ever in a tournament's first two games. They have also outscored their opponents by 27 points in the transition game. This team loves to get up and down the floor, and they have a flair for the theatrics that has won over nearly everyone who has watched them play, regardless of how badly their success has destroyed the brackets of pretty much everyone.
How does such a small school make it this far? By challenging themselves. The FGCU squad played a brutal non-conference schedule in the interest of making money for their university. These games were supposed to be walk-over, "cupcake" games for the larger schools that they faced. But they actually performed very well in these games, beating a Miami squad that went on to a very convincing ACC regular season and conference tournament title. They also played a hard fought game against another second seeded team, Duke, before ultimately being overpowered and losing. Additionally, they played so-called money games against Virginia Commonwealth University and Iowa State University, both of which made the NCAA tournament. These games not only provided the athletic program with much needed money, but they exposed the team to what it's like to play with the upper echelon teams, and showed them that they weren't all that far behind these teams. Their schedule gave them confidence, and that confidence is showing in a big way.
With a starting five consisting of three sophomores (one a red-shirt), one junior, and one senior, even if their magical run ends tonight, I have a feeling we have not heard the last of this FGCU team. Let me be the first to say that I'm rooting for them in tonight's game and for them to make an equally impressive run in the years to come.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.