(Part of our let's-not-jinx-it preview of the second weekend of the NCAA tournament)
Last week, I took a brief look at the Akron Zips in preparation for a hypothetical next round matchup and Zach introduced the VCU Rams. This time, should Michigan advance past the first-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, the Wolverines will draw either the Florida Gators or the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
VCU obliterated the Zips, but hey, if you read that preview then now you know who Zeke Marshall is, and knowledge is pretty cool. For the sake of consistency, I'll once again talk about the underdog in the other matchup in Michigan's region, the FGCU Eagles.
Once again, I'll just cut and paste from the Akron mini-preview: No, Guy On The Internet, it does not matter if we "look ahead." You are a fan, and your thoughts are not space-time-continuum-altering mind bullets.
With that said, here's a quick look at this year's Norfolk State (plus another tournament victory).
The Eagles went 24-10 (13-5) during the pre-Big Dance portion of the schedule, earning a 15-seed after defeating first-seeded Mercer in the Atlantic Sun championship game. It was the first A-Sun title for the Eagles. Belmont had won five of the last seven A-Sun titles, but their move to the Ohio Valley Conference left the door open for a new claimant to the conference throne.
Of course, who really cares about the Eagles pre-tournament resume, right? Head coach Andy Enfeld, who you will surely hear more about the in the coming days and certainly after the tournament once various schools look to fill vacant positions, led to the Eagles to a first round upset of second-seeded Georgetown, the school's first tournament game ever. Needless to say, it was quite a debut.
In a less improbable but still impressive second round victory, the Eagles defeated Steve Fisher's San Diego State Aztecs, once again winning by 10. That's right, Florida Gulf Coast has an all-time average margin of victory in the double digits.
Also, this is now a thing:
FGCU Dunk City (via FGCUDunkCity)
A video about a 15-seed dunking all over people's faces, naturally set to Tyga's "Rack City," now exists. This is a brave new world in which we live.
The above video aside, the Georgetown game proved at least one thing: this Cinderella isn't wearing heels (because, you see, it would be incredibly difficult to execute alley oops and other assorted dunks while wearing them, obviously).
The core of this upstart squad consists of a trio of guards, Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson and Brett Comer, all either 6'3'' or 6'4''. Brown is a senior, the other two are sophomores. Brown and Thompson average 15.6 and 14.5 ppg, respectively, while both shooting a very solid 38% from beyond the arc. Comer is not much of a three-point shooter (26%), but he only has 50 attempts on the season anyway.
In the front court, six foot eight inch alley oop executor Chase Fieler averages 12.1 ppg and 5.4 rpg. He's shot 57% from the field (38% from three), and shoots a decent 74% from the line. Fieler led the A-Sun in both true shooting percentage and eFG%; he was also top 30 nationally in each of those categories.
The Eagles dropped a whopping 81 points on poor ol' San Diego State, a balanced day for FGCU's core. Fieler had 12, Brown had 17, Comer had 10 and Thompson led the way with 23 as the team shot 56% on the day. The Aztecs had given up just 60.5 ppg coming into Sunday's Round of 32 matchup, and FGCU just ran them out of the gym.
Outside of Fieler, Eric McKnight is the other front court occupant at 6'9'', while forwards Eddie Murray (not that Eddie Murray) and Filip Cvjeticanin get the remaining minutes. However, the latter two combined for one field goal attempt in 20 combined minutes against the Aztecs.
The Eagles have some decent size among their core group of guards, which is good for them because they don't have many tall trees, as you'd expect from a 15-seed. Then again, that hasn't stopped them thus far, even against a Georgetown squad featuring Otto Porter and Greg Whittington in its front court.
- The Eagles are 37th nationally in possessions per 40 minutes; like Ricky Bobby, they wanna go fast, which was fairly evident during the dunkfest that was the Georgetown game.
- On the boards, the Eagles are just 148th and 193rd in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, respectively.
- Like VCU, the Eagles also thrive on drinking your milkshake: FGCU is 23rd nationally in steal percentage, 5th in total steals and 13th in steals per game.
Again, this matchup might never happen, whether due to the fact that Michigan will have failed to advance or FGCU doesn't get past the Gators. Either way, with a few days in between the next rounds, we might as well think about the possibilities.
At this point in the tournament there are really no "easy" outs. Fifteen seed or not, if a team has made it to the Sweet 16, let alone the Elite 8, they're likely a team that can beat you. With that said, if Michigan gets by Kansas and you gave me the choice between facing UF or FGCU for a spot in the Final Four, well, I'll take the latter. Which, I suppose, is more reason to root for this improbable run to continue.