Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)
Thus far, the NCAA Tournament has been one for the ages. We have already seen teams rise to the occasion and fall to the underdogs. The La Salle University Explorers knocked off both Kansas State and Ole Miss, while the Shockers of Wichita State did the same to Pitt and #1 seeded Gonzaga. Though, the underdog of all underdogs has been the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. I remember watching them a few weeks ago in the Atlantic-Sun Conference championship game, and thought to myself that this team could really do some damage, depending on the match-up. So far, they have proved everybody wrong by shocking the Georgetown Hoyas and then solidly beating the Aztecs from San Diego State. As underdogs win in the tournament, it always becomes a feel good story, as deserved, but for FGCU, it is much more than that.
As I was reading more about these amazing Eagles, there is no way that this team should be preparing for the Sweet 16. Two years ago, FGCU entered their first year in Division I, star point guard Brett Comer was just learning how to play the position, high riser Eddie Murray almost quit the team, and oh yeah, the hot-shot with no fear named Sherwood Brown was a walk-on (kind of like Mark Titus, but he hasn’t written a book yet). To be perfectly honest, most of this team is formed of players that really had nowhere else to go. It is because of this reason that you have to give head coach Andy Enfield all of the credit in the world.
This is a guy that has taken his coaching experience from across the country (including the NBA) and has channeled it on a group of guys that shouldn’t even be here. His one-on-one coaching style with guys that were rough around the edges, has turned them into a potential Final Four team. His tough style yet respectful tone has made this team what it is, but as good as he has been, without the right players to buy in, none of this would exist. Brett Comer could’ve easily decided that he didn’t want to play point guard, just as Murray could’ve quit and Brown could’ve decided to never walk on. With all of those things in the mix, the reason the Eagle’s success comes down to one reason, fun.
If you have been lucky enough to watch this team play yet, the reoccurring theme as well as their difference from other teams is that they are always having a good time. Can you blame them? The FGCU Eagles entered as #15 seed (the first to make it to the Sweet 16), so essentially, they have nothing to lose. They aren’t supposed to be where they are, so why not have fun? Why not play the spoiler for the teams that “should” be here? It is because of that “why not” attitude that Comer is throwing up alley-oops to Murray and Chase Fieler, and Brown and the Swiss-sensation, Christophe Varidel, feel confident shooting from anywhere. Either way, the players still get to go back to their dorms on the beach, and Coach Enfield will still get to go home to his three kids and amazingly gorgeous wife who used to be a lingerie model. Yes, folks you heard me right. As I watch them play, they remind me of the George Mason and Butler of the past where it doesn’t get too technical and they just go out there and play basketball.
The road to the Sweet 16 wasn’t supposed to be easy, but they have made it look that way.Their next game will be against an in-state opposition in the Florida Gators. A team that is much bigger, both physically, and in the public eye. Many “experts” are saying that the FGCU run will come to an end against the Gators, but isn’t that what they said when they played Georgetown? I’ve decided that when you think that you have the Eagles figured out, they come at you with something different. It is also obvious that the media isn’t rooting for them, because if a small school from Fort Myers, Florida can take down the highly talked about Georgetown Hoyas and Florida Gators within a week of each other, that just makes them look stupid. Let’s be honest, Charles Barkley is already stupid enough.
So I say throw out the stats, records and game plans because that isn’t going to work against Enfield’s Eagles. Teams have failed to figure them out, and since it’s hard to stop a spoiler who knows they are the spoiler, don’t be surprised if you see the fun in the sun making a run to Atlanta.