UNF is all too familiar with NCAA Cinderella, FGCU

Travis Gibson

Photo Credit: Sean Patterson  Junior Travis Wallace elevates against the FGCU defense on Jan. 31.
Photo Credit: Sean Patterson
Junior Travis Wallace elevates against the FGCU defense on Jan. 31.

This weekend, Florida Gulf Coast University put the Atlantic Sun Conference on the map, making a cannonball splash at the NCAA men’s March Madness.

The Eagles, who defeated UNF in the first round of the A-Sun Tournament, en route to win the A-Sun Championship, extended their winning streak to seven games after knocking off basketball giants: No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State.

FGCU is the first team in the 75 year history of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed.

“It’s historical,” said UNF head basketball coach Matthew Driscoll. “It talks a lot about parity.”

UNF knows FGCU well.

The first two games during the regular season both ended in UNF losses: Jan. 7, 75-73 and Jan. 31, 89-75.

The teams’ final meeting was a 73-63 loss in the A-Sun Tournament in Macon, Ga.

“In their last five wins, we were one of those teams [that played them tight]. We were the only team in the last five minutes that was a possession away from being there,” Driscoll said.

Driscoll said FGCU has been successful in the NCAA thanks to good guard play. They have three of the best in the A-Sun: Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson and Brett Comer.

“The offense in our league is going to another level, and I think part of it is having better players,” Driscoll said. “I don’t know if they have NBA players, but they have pros.”

Senior 6-foot-4 guard Brown was the Player of the Year in the A-Sun, and has been the emotional leader of the Eagles. The dreadlocked guard scored 17 against SDSU and 24 against GU.

Thompson was the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year. He has drawn the toughest defensive assignments for the Eagles so far in the NCAA Tournament.

Thompson can fill it up as well, as he demonstrated in the second half of the A-Sun Tournament game against UNF where he scored 16 points in the second half. San Diego State witnessed it first hand when Thompson scored 23 points against them.

Brett Comer, according to Driscoll, is the fuel that feeds the Eagles’ fire. The 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard was also the A-Sun Tournament MVP.

“I think he’s the one that gives them that esprit de corps,” Driscoll said. “I think he’s the one that makes them loose.”

FGCU had the best offense, with 73.3 points per game, and the best field goal percentage with 45.9 percent, in the A-Sun.

“The one thing they are really good at is converting off of turnovers,” Driscoll said. “We worked a lot on that in preparing for [FGCU] in the tournament. You could see it against San Diego State.”

FGCU’s recognition and March Madness success will bring extra money to the A-Sun Conference, but the Eagles’ run doesn’t have Driscoll as excited as the rest of the country.

“Obviously in the state it affects us in a negative way because of recruiting,” Driscoll said. “From a professional standpoint it’s a business and we are in this business to get players.”

Driscoll believes FGCU’s run will end March 29, when they take on the Florida Gators.

Driscoll’s picks: The March Madness Final Four will be Florida, Ohio State, Louisville and Miami.