The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have been the surprise of the 2013 NCAA tournament. The No. 15-seeded team in the South region has improbably soared to a Sweet 16 appearance.
It’s the first time in history that a program with a seed this high—and expectations so low—has made a run to the tourney’s fourth round, but don’t assume the Eagles will be ready to rest on their laurels.
This squad has the talented players, brilliant coaching staff, motivation and drive required to advance to the Elite Eight—and possibly even further with the right mix of skill and luck.
Let’s take a look at how the Eagles can knock out the perennial powerhouse from the Sunshine State, the Florida Gators, and keep dancing during March Madness.
Control the Pace
The Eagles are at their best when the tempo is cranked way up. These players love to run and gun and no player has been more instrumental to FGCU’s success than point guard Brett Comer.
This 6’3” sophomore has put up double-digit assist numbers in the opening two games of the tournament, dropping 12 points, 10 assists and six rebounds against Georgetown, followed by a 10-point, 14-assist, two-rebound performance against San Diego State.
Comer isn’t afraid of dishing dimes in style, either. Florida Gulf Coast has earned the moniker “Dunk City”—after the Los Angeles Clippers' “Lob City”—for its tendency to throw alley-oops and constantly create highlight plays.
As long as this team is pushing the break and creating opportunities in transition, it has a legit chance against UF in the Sweet 16.
Take Efficient Shots
One of the main reasons the Eagles have become the Cinderella of this tourney is their shot selection. Obviously, the dunks and fast-break layups are going to be high-percentage looks, but the FGCU players have also been smart about their attempts that don’t involve flushing down an alley-oop.
Which team will win this Sweet 16 battle?
Against the Hoyas, the Eagles buried 42.9 percent of their attempts from the field and 40 percent from behind the three-point line—an area this underdog surprisingly hasn’t been reliant upon.
Georgetown also challenged them at the charity stripe, but the Eagles answered by sinking 30 of 44 from the line.
FGCU followed this performance up by shooting a whopping 55.9 field-goal percentage against the Aztecs, while utilizing the three-pointer effectively, but not often—hitting 7 of 18 from deep.
If this program can maintain its discipline in the face of a ferocious Florida defense, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Eagles in the Elite Eight.
Perhaps the greatest quality of this special Florida Gulf Coast squad is its “swagger.”
As a No. 15 seed, there were no expectations coming into the Big Dance and the players were able to relax on the court. Because no one believed the Eagles would beat Georgetown and then had no chance against San Diego State, it gave the players the proper motivation to band together and do nothing more than try their best.
Even coach Andy Enfield confirmed that his squad is just trying to enjoy the moment, telling the Associated Press: "We don't take ourselves too seriously. We try to have fun, get serious when we have to.”
As long as the Eagles are on the same page, running up and down the court, making highlight plays and taking efficient shots, this team looks unbeatable. Expect Florida to have its hands full and work cut out when it matches up against FGCU in the Sweet 16.
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