Reporting Tim Kephart
FORT MYERS (CBSMiami) – Many sports fans couldn’t tell you where Florida Gulf Coast University was before the current season started. But between an early season upset of Miami and now winning a berth in the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast has put itself on the map in a big way.
Florida Gulf Coast’s story started just 11 years ago when the men’s basketball program was formed in 2002. The FGCU Eagles only became a full Division I member in 2011. The Eagles made it into the tournament by knocking off Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
FGCU was handed a fifteen-seed in the tournament by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and a first-round matchup with the legendary Georgetown Hoyas. The Eagles came out running and gunning in the first round and knocked off the Hoyas by ten points, 78-68.
It was the second consecutive year a 15-seed had knocked off a two seed. But FGCU wasn’t content with just winning a game in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles ran right past the 7-seed San Diego State Aztecs, 81-71, to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.
“We got a lot of exposure this weekend and now I’m sure it’ll be increased,” FGCU coach Andy Enfield said in one of the understatements of the tournament. “If you watched us play and know the personalities, it won’t be a problem. They enjoy themselves. I think it’s important for them to take this in. I want all our players to take a couple deep breaths and say, ‘Wow, we’re in the Sweet 16, we’ve accomplished a lot.’”
The Eagles’ run-and-gun style generated highlight-reel dunks and plenty of emotion both from the team and the crowd in Philadelphia that quickly took to the upstart Eagles.
“Words can’t describe this feeling as being a 15 seed, the first 15 seed to ever do this,” FGCU point guard Brett Comer said. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in to any of us yet. I feel like maybe it will tomorrow, but right now we’re on such an emotional high it’s hard to come down from.”
But, business is about to pick-up in a big way for the Eagles as they step into a Sweet 16 matchup with the Florida Gators this week. FGCU and the Gators are set to do battle on Friday night with a tip-time tentatively set for 9:57 p.m.
If FGCU manages to get past the Gators, it would face the winner of the Kansas Jayhawks vs. Michigan Wolverines. Winning the second game would earn the FGCU Eagles a trip to the Final Four.
Regardless of whether or not the Eagles make it past the Gators this weekend; they have taken on the role of Cinderella and made quite an impression at the big dance.
The only people who may not be cheering for the Eagles were those hoping to get their brackets correct. According to ESPN’s Chris LaPlaca, 8.15 million brackets were filled out and none correctly picked all the teams in the Sweet 16 correctly.
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