Don’t count Florida Gulf Coast out

Year after year college basketball proves it has the best postseason in all of sports. This tournament has been no exception.

There isn’t another sport where tiny, virtually irrelevant Florida Gulf Coast can knock off one of the blue bloods of college basketball in Georgetown and play its way into the Sweet 16.

It’s called March Madness for a reason, but who could have seen it coming?

Raise your hand if you knew FGCU existed two weeks ago? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Florida Gulf Coast didn’t open its doors as a university until 1997. It played its first game in 2002 as a member of the NAIA. The Eagles moved up to Division I only six years ago and are only in their second season of being NCAA Tournament eligible.

We’re talking about a university that has had an athletic program for only a decade knocking off one of the most storied college basketball programs in history.

But that’s what makes the NCAA Tournament so special. The little guy has a chance. They don’t have to be the better program or even the better team. They just have to be better for one 40-minute game.

Florida Gulf Coast did just that last weekend becoming the first No. 15 seed to ever advance past the round of 32.

And the Eagles did it in entertaining fashion.

Generally, when mid-major teams make a run in the NCAA Tournament they do it by slowing down the pace, limiting possessions and drilling a bucket load of three-pointers in a low scoring game. Usually, it’s close at the end before the underdog survives and moves on.

Florida Gulf Coast, or should I call them “Dunk City,” said to hell with that.

In wins over Georgetown and San Diego State, the Eagles ran up and down the floor, throwing up breath-taking alley-oops and very much looked the part of the superior, more athletic team.

They didn’t try to slow the game down. They told the big boys we can do what you do best better than you can. Watching the games you would have thought “Dunk City” was the higher-seed matching up against the lowly Hoyas and Aztecs.

FGCU scored 78 and 81 points in their two games and neither one of them was close down the stretch. They not only won. They dominated.

Senior Sherwood Brown looked like a future NBA draft pick, and sophomore Brett Comer looked like the second coming of Steve Nash.

So can the Eagles do it? Can they do what Butler, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason have done before them and make a run to the Final Four in Atlanta?

The easy answer is no. Odds are Florida Gulf Coast will come back down to the stratosphere and play like the team that lost twice to 12-18 Lipscomb.

But what if they don’t come back to Earth? What if they ride this wave of momentum and beat Florida tonight then knock off either Michigan or Kansas to reach the Final Four?

We would be looking at one of the greatest runs in sports history. The other three mid-majors making the Final Four is one thing, FGCU would be in an entirely different realm. Fifteen seeds hardly win games in the tournament, let alone make the Final Four.

Can “Dunk City” do it? Why the heck not? I’m a believer. You don’t destroy Georgetown and San Diego State by getting lucky.

I’m officially driving the Florida Gulf Coast bandwagon. There hasn’t been a more impressive team thus far in the tournament.

So if you’re one of those who thinks the Eagles have no shot, just remember its called March Madness for a reason.

 

Alex Ross is a senior sports communication major from Fishers, Ind. He is the Scout sports editor and is devastated that Butler lost last week.

Direct comments, questions and other responses to agross@mail.bradley.edu.