Florida Gulf Coast basketball has taken the nation by storm in the rounds of 64 and 32 in the 2013 NCAA tournament. Now they face an even larger task: Taking down the Florida Gators to get to the Elite Eight.
The Eagles fast-paced offensive style has endeared them to college basketball fans across the country. They've made history as the only No. 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16. But America (well, everyone outside of Gainesville) wants to see the magic continue.
So what do the Eagles have to do to keep the Magic alive?
Read on for three things FGCU has to do to keep dancing closer to the Final Four.
The key for any Cinderella team is to force the opponent into making turnovers—the Eagles have mastered the art.
They forced Georgetown into 14 turnovers in the round of 64 and then upped the ante by causing 17 against San Diego State. The Eagles live in the passing lanes and love to put pressure on the ball-handler. The result is an up-and-down game that creates plenty of fast-break opportunities for the Eagles.
The Gators have done a good job of taking care of the ball in the tournament thus far. They only turned it over eight times against Northwestern State and gave it away 14 times against Minnesota. Both were blowout wins.
The Eagles must apply the pressure early on and create fast-break opportunities.
Be Efficient from Downtown
Unlike Cinderella teams of the past, the Eagles don't actually chuck up three-pointers at an alarming rate.
Rather than overwhelming the opposition with a ton of shots from the outside, the Eagles have just nailed the few that they do shoot. They prefer to attack the rim.
The Eagles went 6-of-15 from beyond the arc in their opening game against Georgetown and went 7-of-18 against San Diego State. It may be tempting to start throwing up threes after two straight games of solid shooting, but the Eagles must do what got them here and attack the basket first.
Once they start getting baskets on the inside, they should be open for another good night of shooting from distance.
Contain Erik Murphy
The Eagles have played like an elite team to this point. They've won both of their games by double-digits and even have a win over an NBA draft lottery talent in Otto Porter, Jr.
However, they haven't seen a player like Erik Murphy all season.
Murphy is a 6'10" big man that can dominate the boards, but he also has the shooting touch to be a threat anywhere on the floor offensively. He's a huge X-factor for the Gators in this matchup and the Eagles will need to find an answer for his unique skill set on the defensive end.
Murphy has been held to under 10 points in five of the Gators' seven losses this season—finding a way to minimize his impact on offense makes beating Florida much easier.
If the Eagles are able to double down on him in the post and close out quickly on the perimeter, it could be enough to spring the upset. That would give people what they all really want to see: more Dunk City.