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.