Dunk City keeps on dancing: Florida Gulf Coast now first 15 seed in Sweet 16


For the first time in the history of the NCAA tournament, a No. 15 seed is in the Sweet 16.

The Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast followed up their 10 point win over No. 2 seed Georgetown on Friday night by drubbing No. 7 seed San Diego State 81-71 on Sunday. FGCU used a 17-0 run late in the second half to push a 54-52 lead to 71-52, and the rout was on.

What makes this run so impressive isn’t simply that the Eagles made it to the Sweet 16, because that was going to happen eventually.

It was how they did it.

FGCU became a twitter meme. They became a hashtag. They were trending nationally twice in the span of three days. That ‘Dunk City’ moniker they’ve been given? That’s a result of the Eagles throwing alley-oop after alley-oop against two top 25 basketball programs. It’s one thing to be a Cinderella. It’s a totally different story to be the Cinderella that spends 40 minutes posterizing anyone in their way.

And that is what makes this story so special.

FGCU didn’t sneak their way into the Sweet 16 because of a fluke call or an untimely injury or because they had one player get hot for a weekend. They advanced through their South Region pod because, quite simply, they were the best team. They may not be done, either. Because the Eagles are good enough to keep advancing. They have two big-time scorers and quality shooters on the wing in Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson. They have a talented point guard in Brett Comer that is as good of a passer as you will find in the country and thrives in leading FGCU’s transition game. That’s matters because FGCU also has the kind of athletes up-and-down their front line that you rarely see at that level.

I mean, have you seen the dunks they’ve thrown down? Those are NBA caliber leapers. How often to you see a team from the Atlantic Sun straight demoralizing teams with NBA draft picks with their athleticism and offensive execution?

I’ll say it right now: this team has a chance to beat No. 3 seed Florida this weekend. Not a good one, mind you, because I think the Gators are a better team than Georgetown or San Diego State or Miami.

But I also think that FGCU is a team that thrives on momentum and energy, and that these performances were as much about their ability on the court as they were the fact that this group simply got on a roll the likes we’ve never seen before. Georgetown and San Diego State were both shook when FGCU went on a run. I can see Florida — and their back court of Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin — having the same thing happen.

Regardless of what happens, this performance by FGCU is something that I will never forget. It’s something that we may never see again.

That Sweet 16 trip isn’t the only bit of history that FGCU made this weekend.

They are still the only undefeated team in the history of the NCAA tournament.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Crash survivor Austin Hatch back in LA with Michigan hoops

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Austin Hatch finished high school less than two miles from Staples Center, playing basketball at Loyola High and golfing throughout the warm California winter four years ago.

But he mostly spent his one year in Los Angeles simply learning how to live again after surviving the second tragic plane crash of his young life, a crash that killed his father and stepmother.

When Michigan’s run to the Sweet Sixteen brought Hatch back to downtown LA this week, he was grateful for the chance to see his uncle, his extended family and his Loyola coach, Jamal Adams. They all plan to be in the stands Thursday when Michigan faces Texas A&M, with Hatch helping the Wolverines from his spot on the bench.

“It was only a year of my life, but it was a big year of my life,” Hatch said Wednesday before going through a workout with his teammates. “It was the year that prepared me for Michigan. Great people out here. I was very, very blessed to be a part of it.”

Hatch scored one point in his Michigan playing career, which ended in 2015. He is a student assistant coach now, watching the Wolverines in a suit and tie — except on Senior Day last month, when he suited up and received a stirring ovation at Crisler Center.

With the Wolverines needing only two wins in LA to reach the Final Four, Hatch is grateful to play any small role in their success.

“Obviously what I contribute to the team doesn’t show up in the stat sheet,” Hatch said. “But the fact that I’ve been able to add something has given me a sense of fulfillment, if you will. I couldn’t control what happened to me, but I knew I could control how I responded to it. And I think that given the circumstances, I’ve done my best to make the most of it. I know all my teammates appreciate that.”

Hatch’s impact has been immeasurable on the Michigan program and coach John Beilein, who lived up to his scholarship commitment to the promising prospect from Fort Wayne, Indiana, after the June 2011 crash that left him in a coma for weeks. Hatch had already survived a 2003 crash in which his mother, brother and sister died.

Given the traumatic circumstances in which he arrived on the West Coast, his return is a reminder of his resilience. Hatch healed during his year in Los Angeles — and he relished the chance to hit the links in January while Michigan was buried under snow.

“In hindsight, I’m really glad I was here,” Hatch said. “It broadened my horizons a little bit. I’m from the Midwest. I’m from Fort Wayne, a small town. Now I’m in Ann Arbor, which is relatively small in comparison to LA. It was good to come out here and experience a different way of life.”

While his time with the Wolverines will end soon, Hatch isn’t slowing down. He is getting married to former Michigan volleyball player Abby Cole in the summer, and he’ll explore a career in business while deciding what he wants to do next.

But first, he’s hoping for two more weeks of hoops ending in a national title.

“My chapter at Michigan has been incredible,” Hatch said. “I wouldn’t change anything about it. I have no regrets. There’s nothing I wish I would have done. Everyone here has invested so much in me, and I’ve really done my best to show my appreciation by working hard.”

CBT Podcast: 2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview, Picks and Predictions

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Sam Vecenie of the Athletic and the Game Theory podcast stopped by to chat with Rob Dauster about the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The two went through each of the eight Sweet 16 matchups, detailing how each one of those eight games projects to play out and going over which lines — spread and over-unders — they like.

Dan Hurley will accept UConn head coaching position

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Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley will be the next head coach at UConn, replacing the 2014 national title winner, Kevin Ollie.

Hurley will be signing a six-year deal, according to multiple reports, that could be valued as much as $18 million. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who had also offered him a similar amount of money.

Hurley turned the Rhode Island program around during his six-year tenure, capped off with a pair of seasons where the Rams won a game in the NCAA tournament. UConn, which is one of the best jobs but has not been one of the best teams in the AAC in recent years, should be a place where he can continue to recruit talent. Under Ollie, the Huskies have been able to get players. The issue has been the performance and development of those players once they get to campus.

The Huskies finished 14-18 this past season.

Dan Hurley is the son of New Jersey high school coaching legend Bob Hurley and the brother of former Duke guard and current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley.

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

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Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.