Florida Gulf Coast University Is A True March Madness Cinderella

By Marilee Gallagher

When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, everybody loves a Cinderella story.

In 2013, Florida Gulf Coast University, a small college in Fort Myers, FL, is proving to be that Cinderella and their fairy tale, with no end in sight, has taken them all the way to the Sweet 16 with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line.

Florida Gulf Coast University, known simply as FGCU, is a small school housing just over 12,000 undergraduate students. The school has been in existence for just a few years, formed in 1991 as one of the country’s first space-grant/ NASA-run colleges.

As a whole, the university has just six mens’ athletic programs, with baseball and basketball being the top attractions.

Yet, despite the fact that the Eagles have only been Division I since 2011 and that they needed to play and beat universities more than two times their size, they are headed to the Sweet 16 to take on their interstate rivals, the Florida Gators.

Out of the Atlantic Sun, The FGCU Eagles needed to defeat the top-seeded Mercer Bears in order to gain the all-important automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. They won the championship final, making them the first team to book a ticket to the “Big Dance.” They weren’t expected to do much however, as they were just a No. 15 seed.

Their first round matchup placed them against a Georgetown University team that finished the season tied with Marquette and Louisville for the Big East regular season title. Behind the efforts of the Big East’s Coach and Player of the Year in John Thompson III and Otto Porter Jr. respectively, Georgetown went on to win the Big East Tournament and earn a No. 2 seed in the March Madness field of 68.

For as good as Georgetown was supposed to be, the Hoyas were no match for the Eagles of FGCU. The final score was 78-68 in favor of Florida Gulf Coast as they just out-manned and outplayed Georgetown. Continuing their winning streak, the Eagles did the same thing to the Aztecs of San Diego State.

That win made FGCU the first-ever No. 15 seed to reach the round of 16 in the NCAA Division I Tournament. So while beating Florida will be no easy task, a potential victory would only be FGCU’s second biggest upset of the tournament as Florida is just a No. 3 seed.

In the end, FGCU might fall to Florida. They may not make it to the Elite Eight or Final Four like No. 11 seed VCU did a few years ago. Still, with what they have done and in the manner that they have done it, the little school that could is proving that one should never count out a team, even one that did rank just 49th in the nation in points per game.

It is worth noting though that if Florida Gulf Coast does beat Florida, their expected Elite Eight opponent is the University of Miami, a team that FGCU beat during the regular season.

Follow Marilee on Twitter, @MGallagher17 and Google+

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