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Florida Gulf Coast's Sherwood Brown, left, and Chase Fieler celebrate after winning a third-round game against San Diego State on Sunday. (Associated Press)<br>

Florida Gulf Coast's Sherwood Brown, left, and Chase Fieler celebrate after winning a third-round game against San Diego State on Sunday. (Associated Press)

Gazzolo: Eagles bring a little fun back into game

Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 11:13 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Who knew Cinderella went to the ball with such a swagger...and dreadlocks?

College basketball’s big dance has once again produced its great underdog.

This one isn’t missing any slippers and doesn’t seem too concerned about the clock striking midnight, or much of anything else for that matter.

Instead, Florida Gulf Coast University is taking the nation by storm, busting bracket after bracket along the way.

With each win, thousands more join what has become Eagle Nation.

In case you were wondering, the young and struggling program averaged just around 2,000 fans a home game during the regular season. That means the Eagles didn’t take Fort Myers or any other place by storm until last Friday.

That’s when it all changed for the tiny school whose players believed even if the fans didn’t notice.

Despite being a 15 seed, FGCU doesn’t enter the big arenas quietly, like many of the other lower wanna-bes. They don’t slink into their dressing room and they have yet to even suggest that they are just happy to be here, there or anywhere.

This is a club that has found a way to not only shock the likes of mighty Georgetown, but also become the first No. 15 to make it to the round of 16. That’s sweet.

By doing so, the Eagles have soared in popularity. Their win over San Diego State Sunday evening proved the first upset of the tournament was not a fluke.

Little FGCU has proven all the experts wrong, even if there was evidence they might be a pretty good team going into the tournament.

Earlier in the season the Eagles beat Miami, a fellow member of the Sweet 16 and a No. 2 seed out of the ACC, by double-digits no less.

That alone shows just how big a deal beating Georgetown was not a fluke.

However, there are more than just rooting for the underdog that makes this story and team likeable. The Eagles are fun to watch.

That has not been the case for a good portion of this tournament or college basketball of late.

There has been drama, no question, but the endings of games tell only portion of the story.

College basketball has become stale, boring, slow. Not the Eagles. They are a high-wire act from start to finish.

In a game where every possession seems to be coached, over-coached and then re-coached again, Florida Gulf Coast races up and down the court with youthful exuberance.

Others are worried about making mistakes while this group is willing to make plays.

While most of college basketball seems stuck in a mosh pit of sorts, the Eagles jump over the pack and run to their own tune.

When Georgetown closed to within seven points in the final minutes and the dream seemed to be slipping out of the Eagles hands there was no panic and not even a hint of slowing down.

Just when the game could be lost, an over-the-shoulder, no-look pass led to an alley-oop dunk and the final nail in the Hoyas’ coffin.

College basketball’s elite would have instead slowed the game down, likely called a time out and tried to milk the clock.

They may not win it all, in fact they likely won’t. But, the Eagles have caught our attention at least for one week.

And the have brought a little fun back into the game even if they have wrecked our brackets.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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