FGCU vs. Florida: Eagles' Keys to Keeping Cinderella Run Alive

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIMarch 29, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 24:   Head coach Andy Enfield of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles smiles in the second half while taking on the San Diego State Aztecs during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Center on March 24, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The story of the 2013 NCAA tournament has been No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast’s improbable run, but the clock may strike midnight on this Cinderella when it takes on No. 3 Florida.

Andy Enfield’s Eagles shocked No. 2 Georgetown in the opening round, then became the first No. 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16 with a win over No. 7 San Diego State.

Now, FGCU faces its toughest test yet against Billy Donovan and the Gators.

Here are the keys to victory for Florida Gulf Coast.

Note: statistics courtesy of KenPom.com.


Limit Turnovers

This has been a problem that has plagued FGCU throughout the season. In fact, the Eagles rank 221st in the nation in turnover percentage. 

The team is extremely aggressive on offense and shows little reservations about making risky passes. This will hurt Enfield's squad badly against Florida. 

Florida is the only team in the country to place in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Gators will punish any mistakes the Eagles make on offense, and they will turn them into points.

Florida Gulf Coast was able to win the turnover battle in both of their previous games, but if the team fails to do so this time around, its tournament run will end.


Push the Tempo 

The Eagles are going to have to play a perfect game to beat Florida. The team will have to limit turnovers, but it cannot sacrifice its greatest advantage to do it.

In order to make full use of its athleticism, FGCU needs to get out and run. If this game turns into an up-tempo affair for long stretches, the Eagles will have a chance. 

At every opportunity, the team must get the ball into Brett Comer’s hands and start shooting down the floor towards the basket. The Gators will be trying to slow the game down, but the Eagles cannot let this happen. 

If this game comes down to who performs better in their half-court set, Florida will cruise into the Elite Eight.


Aggressive Defense

While the Eagles commit plenty of turnovers, they often make up for it on the other end of the floor. FGCU ranks 24th in the nation in steal percentage.

Andy Enfield will have to stress limiting turnovers to his team, but the Eagles’ style makes a handful of errant passes inevitable. In order to pull off the upset, FGCU will need to shoot into passing lanes and be aggressive on defense.

Bernard Thompson had five steals against San Diego State, while Eric McKnight had four blocks. These are the type of plays that lead to opportunities in transition.

If Florida Gulf Coast has any chance to get the Gators out of their comfort zone and push the tempo in this game, it will need to create turnovers on defense.


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