The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles will attempt to extend their improbable NCAA Tournament run on Friday, with a Sweet 16 match-up against cross-state rivals the Florida Gators at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Texas. After becoming the first 15-seed to ever make the Sweet 16 last weekend, Gulf Coast has become the darlings of the basketball world from "Dunk City," Florida.
"I feel like we're getting a lot of America behind us. I guess you could say we're a part of America's team at this point," said guard Sherwood Brown on Tuesday.
"It's so brand new," Eagles coach Andy Enfield said Monday, as emails popped into his mailbox at a fairly dizzying rate. "No one knows — no one knew — what FGCU stood for, the letters. Now it puts our university in a national spotlight and rightly so, because this is a great place. It's a young, vibrant university with just a lot of energy. I've been trying to tell that story to a lot of people."
FGCU faces a tough test in the Sweet 16 against the Gators. One of the most efficient teams in the nation on both offense and defense, Florida will try to put an end to the Eagles' Cinderella story doing what Georgetown and San Diego State couldn't do in the tournament's first weekend: limit transition opportunities and keep FGCU out of the paint.
"We're playing against a really, really good team that's playing as well as anybody in the country right now. And they've had some incredible runs," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I know there are a lot of nice stories out there. But we've got focus on the stuff that we need to do going into the game."
In the only previous meeting between the two schools, Florida won 94-60, but that was in 2008.
FGCU will continue to use the strategy that helped them score 73.5 points per game. The Eagles will try to turn defensive rebounds and turnovers into easy transition buckets, with doses of three-point shooting to complement.
Florida has a potent offense of its own, averaging 72.0 points per game. No one player on the Gators shoulders too heavy a burden. Each starter averages between 9.2 and 12.8 points per game.
Win, and the Eagles will be the first 15-seed ever to advance to the Elite Eight, with a game against the Michigan-Kansas winner on Sunday. Tipoff is at 9:57pm ET Friday with coverage on TBS.