Florida Gulf Coast University Run-and-Guns into Sweet Sixteen – NCAA College BasketballMonday, March 25, 2013 12:40
March Madness lived up to its name with the FGCU Eagles and La Salle Explorers swooping into the Sweet Sixteen.
For what was being billed as the most wide open NCAA Tournament in years–if not ever–the Sweet Sixteen sure seemed pretty boring (translation: everything status quo, higher seeds winning, big conferences dominating) halfway through Sunday’s action.
The Round of 64, after all, had seen one 15 seed, one 14 seed, one 13 seed and three 12 seeds move on. But the Round of 32? Sure, the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs had fallen to the #9 Wichita State Shockers, but even that game was a battle of two mid-majors. And it’s not as if the Shockers were a complete upstart, having been ranked in the Top 25 during the regular season.
As for the #12 Oregon Ducks knocking off, the #4 Saint Louis Billikens, nobody thought the Ducks deserved a #12 seed, having just won the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. Lowly seeded big conference schools hardly qualify for the upset excitement for which March Madness is known and loved.
Sunday started off with more of the same, with the first four games all seeing the higher seeds win–all #1, #2 or #3 seeds to boot, the teams “expected” to make the Sweet Sixteen by the numbers. At least Ohio State – Iowa State (a buzzer beater) and Indiana – Temple (down to the wire) delivered the NCAA Tournament excitment goods.
And then came Florida Gulf Coast University. The #15 seed that knocked off mighty #2 Georgetown in the Round of 64 scorched one of the nation’s stingiest defenses in the #7 San Diego State Aztecs in the Round of 32. The school in its first NCAA Tournament appearance, in only its second year of tournament eligibility, in only its sixth year of being a Division 1 program.
March Madness had its mojo back.
What immediately strikes one about the FGCU Eagles is their style of play. Most mid-majors which have seen success utilize a methodical, half-court, ball-control offense with emphasis on perfect execution to make up for their lack of size, speed and athleticism of the big schools. Gonzaga and Butler are the quintessential examples of this style, although their sustained success on the national stage has allowed them to close the talent gap somewhat (Gonzaga’s style of play has evolved over time more than Butler’s).
But FGCU? The Eagles run. They jump. They dunk. They attack at all times. They see the floor and know where their teammates will be.
Florida Gulf Coast plays the same athletic run-and-gun transition game as many of the big boys, but with perhaps better team chemistry and without the one-and-done players, big egos and expected NBA contracts. That makes for a dangerous combination, and an exciting one, too.
Run and gun? More like fun’n'gun, basketball style.
On top of which, in their first game, the Eagles provided the play of the tournament to date on the Brent Comer alley-oop pass to Chase Fielder for a one-handed dunk. [Their second-game featured the classiest show of sportsmanship caught by cameras so far, coming from the other side of the ball–San Diego State star Jamaal Franklin congratulating FGCU’s Sherwood Brown. As detailed in this story, Franklin sounds like a heck of a young man, with a work ethic to match his sportsmanship.]
All told, FGCU may be better situated to make an extended run in the NCAA Tournament than any of their small school predecessors in their first year of national prominence.
As for the rest of the day, the #13 La Salle Explorers were also not to be outdone, following the path carved out by VCU a couple years ago as a First Four team marching through the subsequent rounds of the tournament.
Final tally of seeds moving on:
Only the East Region held to form with all four top seeds moving on; eleven of the top sixteen seeds in total sealed the deal. And at least one low seed not expected to make it past the Round of 64 will for sure make the Elite Eight, with #9 Wichita State set to face #13 La Salle in the West Region.
How Sweet Sixteen March Madness is.
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