The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles are everyone’s favorite underdog. They are the only No. 15 seed in NCAA tournament history to make it into the Sweet Sixteen and had outstanding performances against both the No. 2 seeded Georgetown Hoyas and the No. 7 seeded San Diego State Aztecs. However, the next opponent that the Eagles face, the No. 3 seeded Florida Gators, have beaten every opponent this season by double-digits. The key to Florida defeating the high-powered, high-energy Florida Gulf Coast offense? Zone defense.
Florida has to play zone defense – just a common 2-3 zone. It’s not the NBA style defense run by the top programs in the NCAA, but it might be the only way to stop the Eagles dream run in the NCAA tournament. Look at Florida Gulf Coast’s losses in the Atlantic Sun this season; the Eagles lost once to the East Tennessee State Buccaneers and twice to the Lipscomb Bison. Both teams finished far below .500 on the season, but won against Florida Gulf Coast by sticking to zone defense. Florida Gulf Coast can beat some of the best teams in the country man-on-man; they proved that against Georgetown. Sherwood Brown and company are athletic, and their weakness lies in forcing them to live by the three. Zone defense forces them to rely on a high shooting percentage rather than the dunks that have given the Eagles the nickname “Dunk City.”
Billy Donovan is one of the best coaches in the country and realizes the importance of stopping the Eagles’ high-energy offense. Expect Florida to limit Florida Gulf Coast’s inside game, and the Eagles to depend on low-percentage jump shots and threes. The Eagles’ Cinderella story will come to an end on Friday night against the Gators.