You heard it here! I predicted that the 15 FGCU Eagles would make a run to the Sweet Sixteen. If you saw the way that the Eagles played against 2 Georgetown, you knew that they were going to give all they had against 7 San Diego State. And they most definitely gave all they had, and then some.
This FGCU squad came into the tournament with a huge chip on their shoulder. No one gave them a chance. According to ESPN, only a little more than 2 percent of people who filled out brackets using their Tournament Challenge game chose the Eagles to upset the Hoyas. (Among them, myself.) They made fuel for themselves out of this and took the underdog label with pride. And they showed Georgetown up big time.
This led people to believe, “Oh Florida Gulf Coast got lucky, they are definitely a one-and-done team”. It would make sense people would make such a statement because the previous six times a 15 seed beat a 2 seed, the 15 seed would lose in the round of 32. When FGCU came back into the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, they had intentions of breaking this stat line and showing that their game against Georgetown was not a fluke.
Andy Enfield’s group showed up to this game just as well as they did to the Georgetown game. Throughout the first half, the Eagles kept up with the Aztecs in scoring, and never allowed SDSU to get a double-digit lead. Dunk City, as many refer to the Eagles as now, proved themselves again with many spectacular dunks by Sherwood Brown and Eric McKnight, who started off the DunkFest with an alley-oop from Brett Comer in the first few minutes of the first half. The halftime score was 35-34, with the 7 San Diego State Aztecs leading by one.
But this team led by Sherwood Brown did not let a deficit going into the half bring them down. They came out with fiery intensity in the second half, with every dunk and three pointer they made growing their lead. The Eagles played so well that analyst Reggie Miller made a poke at the hometown Philadelphia Eagles, saying “that’s the way Eagles are supposed to play.” The game’s final score was 81-71. This makes the Eagles the first ever 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
Now, with everybody jumping on the bandwagon of this year’s Cinderella story, the 15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles will play the underdog role again against the 3 Florida Gators. Can the Eagles survive this game and move on to the Elite Eight? Who knows? Anything can happen during March Madness.
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