Florida Gulf Coast University: This year's Cinderella story
Florida Gulf Coast's history-making weekend is creating a national bandwagon - and I'm gladly buying a one-way ticket to Dunk City.
With that confession, I must come clean with another admittance: I'm from Florida and prior to this tournament knew very little about Florida Gulf Coast. In fact, when I sat down to watch FGCU play Georgetown, my friend and fellow Stetson alum asked, "Wasn't FGCU a community college?" Shortly after, a man walked behind us and said, "Man, that school with the letters can ball."
Like everyone else around the country, I stared dumbfounded at the television completely (and perhaps ignorantly) in the dark about the talent unfolding before my eyes.
One of my twitter followers quickly reminded me Florida Gulf Coast is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Yes, the same conference I played in as a Division I soccer player. The first thought that flashed through my head was, "have I been out of college that long?" No, not really--or so I like to believe.
Florida Gulf Coast is just that new. The university joined the Atlantic Sun in the 2007-2008 season and has only been eligible for the NCAA tournament for two years. Regardless, it's a Florida school on the same playing field as my alma mater. So when it comes to media interest in this so-called Cinderella story, consider me part of the pumpkin-turned-coach driving it.
But, it's not about where FGCU is from or how they got to the NCAA Tournament. It's about what the Eagles are doing on the court. They are dancing, literally. Before the San Diego State game ended, Sherwood Brown and company pumped their arms in a sort of ceremonial mascot tribute. They hugged cheerleaders and shook announcers hands. If you're quick to say it's disrespectful or premature, think about how much the world disrespected them. Nobody believed they stood a chance and with good reason. No number 15 seed ever made the Sweet 16 before, much less from a university younger than college freshmen.
If the Eagles are the star of the Big Dance, their fans are the DJ. Just 24 hours after FGCU beat Georgetown, a student rapper by the name of Bambi penned the anthem, "Dunk City." It didn't take long for the creative tune to go viral. Somewhere T.I. is discovering another mid-major talent.
Speaking of talent, let's just put the seed talk to rest when it comes to FGCU. They dunked on teams like it was the NBA All Star weekend, prompting internet chatter that the Eagles are a modern day Phi Slama Jama. When they're not defying gravity in the air, the Eagles are out-running their opponents. The Aztecs were so exhausted late in the 4th quarter, they haplessly threw up threes in desperation. At one point San Diego State was just 4 of 17 behind the arc, struggling to keep up with the Eagles 49 point second half performance.
The cliché is to call the Eagles "Cinderella." Given the insurmountable odds against them (a 9.5 percent chance of making the Sweet 16), that description is certainly applicable. However, I see things differently. A Cinderella team is one that squeaked by with a buzzer beater, or a few clutch shots here and there.
Florida Gulf Coast is reminiscent of the 1987 Showtime Los Angeles Lakers. They are fearless, athletic, and creative while still maintaining intelligence and court awareness. It's almost like every time they dunk the ball, they take a shot at the critics who relegated them to nothing more than a 15th seed.
Well, we hear you Florida Gulf Coast...loud and clear. Last time I checked, Cinderella did not repeatedly dunk over teams and shake defenders. So, keep rewriting the fairy tale because after all, I'd much rather see Cinderella in Air Jordan's than glass slippers.