The Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles decisively defeated the seventh-seeded San Diego State Aztecs Sunday night in the third round of the South Regional of the NCAA Men's basketball tournament.
There have been several entertaining story lines in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament thus far: Harvard achieving its first win ever over three-seed University of New Mexico; nine-seed Wichita State defeating the West Region’s top team, Gonzaga, and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft hitting a three-point buzzer-beater on Sunday to defeat the scrappy Iowa State Cyclones.
But the story of the week has to be the South region’s fifteen-seed Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles, who on Friday and Sunday defeated, respectively, No. 2-seed Georgetown and No. 7-seed San Diego State. It is another first for the tournament: a 15-seed has never advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen.” In fact, in the entire history of the men’s NCAA tournament, only seven 15-seeds had even won a single game.
It is not unusual for teams – the great and not-so-great – to endure a “let down” after a physically and emotionally draining win. But in the case of the Fort Myers, Fla.-based Eagles, they seemed to respond in the opposite manner. They dropped 81 points on the Aztecs Sunday night, whose wheels effectively fell off after a 17-0 run against them in the middle of a second half that was marked by numerous uncharacteristic turnovers.
After the game, Florida Gulf Coast’s coach Andy Enfield was asked about their next opponent, the perennially powerful, No. 3 seed University of Florida. He said that he had called the Gators before the beginning of the season, trying to get a scrimmage on the schedule, but that it was not to be. He won’t need Florida’s coach Billy Donovan to take his call this time.
Witnessing this team on the sidelines or in the locker room, it is obvious these guys are having great fun, and they appear to very close knit. This has enabled them to play with an unusual brand of abandon, and it was more than evident in the second half last night.