After becoming the first-ever No. 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have captured the 2013 NCAA tournament audience with their Dunk City style and dance moves after victories.
Facing No. 3 Florida in the Sweet 16 on Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the Eagles have a chance to make history yet again and can become the first team in the Elite Eight in the 38-year history of the 64-team field.
No matter what happens on Friday, FGCU is the talk of the tournament right now. Win or lose, the Eagles have a chance to be the talk of the 2013 tournament for years to come, too.
Coming into the Big Dance, Florida Gulf Coast didn't get much of a chance to get out of the second round against No. 2 Georgetown—a team that just a few days ago was a popular pick to make it to the Final Four from the South region.
However, the Eagles did have a win over No. 2 seed Miami early in the regular season, and played other tournament teams (Duke, Iowa State, Virginia Commonwealth) early in the season before starting Atlantic Sun play.
The Eagles came back from a rough start to the Atlantic Sun conference slate to defeat Mercer twice, capturing the conference title and earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. Florida Gulf Coast was actually the first team to earn an automatic bid to the tournament, as captured by this Nike advertisement for the school.
Then the real fun began.
Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson, Brett Comer and the rest of the Eagles took their first two rounds by storm, specifically by pushing the pace on every possession and creating a Dunk City mantra that almost rivals what the Los Angeles Clippers do with their Lob City style in the NBA.
The second-round win over Georgetown was magical enough to make Florida Gulf Coast the talk of the tournament. The Eagles put in huge dunks down the stretch and continued to push the pace against the always-steady Hoyas, getting to the free-throw line 44 times and making the rest of the tournament field notice their accomplishments.
They didn't quit against San Diego State, either, storming back from a one-point halftime deficit to win by double digits. Comer's ridiculous assist totals from the first two games (24) speak to the unselfishness of this team, while Brown and Thompson can both go over 20 points at any given moment.
There are so many storylines for this team that it's getting hard to keep up.
USA Today's Nicole Auerbach broke down what makes Dunk City tick in her most recent piece, in which the Eagles earn comparisons to the Harlem Globetrotters and the Houston Cougars of the 1980s—known better as Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Phi Slama Jama.
Any team that gets a Phi Slama Jama parody (White Slama Jama) has obviously exceeded expectations in the NCAA tournament.
While the offense has been phenomenal, Stephen Danley of Sports Illustrated notes that the 1-3-1 matchup zone that the Eagles used to disrupt the Aztec attack makes them a dangerous opponent for any team that they might face in the later rounds of the tournament.
How far will this magical run go?
How's the in-state rivalry storyline stacking up in your book? The Florida Gators are under a large amount of pressure to both move on to the Elite Eight and retain in-state supremacy in this game, especially with the eyes of the nation firmly hoping for one more win for the Eagles from Gulf Coast.
Oh, don't forget that head coach Andy Enfield just happens to have a supermodel wife (via Yahoo! Sports), and the expose on his life (via Dana O'Neil of ESPN) is something that is a must-read for anyone who likes to break through the initial barrier of someone who is just a basketball coach.
These Eagles are prepared to fly when the Sweet 16 kicks off on Thursday. They'll have to wait until Friday night to prove they are worthy of a place in the Elite Eight, but that won't stop us from fawning over the team until then.
Dunk City is for real. We'll see if the momentum from the last two wins and national spotlight will lead to another record-breaking moment in what's already been a stunning tournament from all sides.
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