We’re coming at you a little late this morning. Sorry about that. But hey – did you see this? You’d need some recovery time too. Anyway, here goes.
It was fun while it lasted, FGCU.
To the disappointment of pretty much everyone but Florida fans (but in line with nearly everyone’s expectations, if they were being honest), Florida Gulf Coast’s amazing NCAA Tournament run ended last night, as the Eagles fell to Florida 62-50 in the Sweet 16. As the score suggests, the Gators were able to ground FGCU’s, high-flying, fast-paced style. Well, at least they were after the first six minutes.
Because for the first six, FGCU looked as good as they had at any point in the tourney, lobbing and three-ing their way to a 15-4 lead to start the game as Florida couldn’t make a shot if their lives depended on it and the Cowboys Stadium crowd got behind the possibility that this unreal run might just continue, and even with five minutes and change to go in the first half, FGCU held a 10-point lead.
Then, though, reversion to the mean happened. Florida started hitting some shots (though not that many; they shot just 38.6 percent as a team for the game), FGCU started missing everything and playing sloppy (the Eagles committed 20 turnovers to the Gators’ 10), and Florida went on a 16-0 run near the end of the first half. FGCU never led again, but to their credit, they never went away, and the game stayed close enough that they weren’t put away for sure until the end. In fact, when Eagles guard Christophe Varidel missed a three with just over two minutes to go that would have cut the lead to six, the announcers seemed almost startled – hey, wait a second, they were in this thing the whole time!
But ultimately, they ran into a team that finally had too much for them, and stopped playing out of their minds. Florida used its physical advantages to dominate the offensive glass, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds to FGCU’s five, and the Gator guards got to the line (Florida attempted 23 free throws to FGCU’s 11). The Gators didn’t have their best night by a long shot, but they were still too much for the 15 seed to overcome. And that’s pretty amazing in itself, isn’t it? It takes one of the nation’s elite teams to finally slowly grind down a 15 seed finally in the Sweet 16? While Florida dominated the majority of the game, this was no blowout.
Regardless, this was a spectacular tun by FGCU, and they seemed destined to become the biggest story of the tournament, no matter what happens the rest of the way (and it would be pretty cool if FLorida wins it all so we can say it took the national champs to knock off FGCU, wouldn’t it?). Eventually, the mania surrounding the team and the school itself will die down. Coach Andy Enfield will get offered other jobs. Leading scorer Sherwood Brown will graduate. It’ll be tough to ever pull something like this off again. But damn it, we’ll always have this last week. And hey, if Enfield does stick around for a while, FGCU should remain one of the nation’s most exciting small school programs. Same time next year, Eagles?