Few expected No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast to still be alive in the NCAA tournament, but the Eagles will now look to keep up their incredible March Madness run against No. 3 Florida.
Although the Eagles have already beaten a pair of quality teams in Georgetown and San Diego State, Florida presents some tougher challenges. The Gators run an efficient offense that features five players averaging at least nine points per game.
Still, Florida Gulf Coast's high-flying attack has won over America with its ability to run the floor and throw down some impressive dunks.
This battle of Florida seems like a mismatch on paper, but it will be an exciting game in the Sweet 16.
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
When: Friday, March 29, at 9:57 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness on Demand
Betting Line: Florida -13 (via Vegas Insider)
What's at Stake
The winner of this game moves on to the next round to face the winner of Kansas versus Michigan.
Florida Gulf Coast is already the first No. 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16, so it is obvious that it would be the first one of its kind in the Elite Eight. However, a loss would no longer make the Eagles the only undefeated team in tournament history.
Meanwhile, Florida is looking for its third straight appearance in the Elite Eight after losing in that round in each of the last two seasons.
Injuries (via USA Today)
No injuries to report.
What They're Saying
Everyone is having a little bit of fun during Florida Gulf Coast's run to the Sweet 16. Even the city's official website changed the name of Fort Myers to "Dunk City," according to SportsCenter:
Florida Gulf Coast seems to have OFFICIALLY turned its city into "Dunk City" (via http://t.co/3g7Mpvffuj) » http://t.co/2PDj6CAjtU3/25/2013, 9:52:21 PM
There will certainly be more than a few people looking to join the fun in the future after this past week.
Florida Player to Watch: Erik Murphy
Mike Rosario might have scored 25 points in the win over Minnesota, but Erik Murphy has been the more consistent offensive threat on the season.
The forward leads the team with 12.8 points per game, and he has the ability to get baskets around the rim or shoot from the outside. It is tough for anyone to ignore his 46.2 percent mark from behind the arc this season.
At 6'10", Murphy will be incredibly difficult for anyone on Florida Gulf Coast to guard. He needs to be aggressive throughout the game to help the Gators put points on the scoreboard.
Florida Gulf Coast Player to Watch: Brett Comer
The alley-oops have been the most exciting part of the Eagles' run so far, but it is important to note that Brett Comer has been the one starting each of these dunks with great passes.
In two games, the sophomore has an incredible 24 assists, helping him earn a double-double in each round. This is not a fluke either, as Comer leads the nation in assists per 40 minutes (minimum of 150 assists).
The point guard has incredible vision and is the reason that this team has been so successful. If he can continue to push the offense with plenty of fast-break points, his squad will have a chance to pull off at least one more upset.
Key Matchup: Mike Rosario vs. Sherwood Brown
Florida Gulf Coast is a relatively young team, but Sherwood Brown is the senior leader who brings it all together. The team's leading scorer is very athletic and can drive past talented defenders or hit a deep shot if he is left open.
Unfortunately for him, that also describes Florida guard Mike Rosario, who is coming off his best game of the season against Minnesota. The Rutgers transfer made eight of his 12 shots, including 6-of-9 from behind the arc.
Both of these teams have enough balance not to make this a one-on-one game of talented guards, but each man can handle the scoring load if needed. This individual battle should be exciting to watch throughout the game.
Prediction: Florida 78, Florida Gulf Coast 67
While the Eagles have shown they can beat a good defense like Georgetown's, it is Florida's offense they will have trouble with. The Gators have the third-most efficient offense in the country, according to KenPom.
Florida holds onto the ball (fewest turnovers per game in the SEC) and makes shots (eighth in the nation in field-goal percentage). This will give Florida Gulf Coast fewer opportunities to get easy baskets on the other end of the court.
In addition, Florida will have a big size advantage inside between Murphy and Patric Young that will make things difficult on the Eagles.
It appears that this magical run will finally come to an end.
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