COMMENTARY | When the field for the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was announced, many casual fans across the country must have looked at the Georgetown-Florida Gulf Coast match-up and said something like: “I’ve never heard of Florida Gulf Coast. Where in Florida is it?”
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) opened in 1997 in Ft. Myers, Florida. Its basketball team became eligible for the NCAA Tournament only last season. The 2012-13 team qualified for the tourney by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament title.
FGCU took to the court for their first-ever NCAA tournament contest in Philadelphia on Friday night against the Georgetown Hoyas with a 24-10 record, including an early-season victory over Miami of Florida, so it was expected that they could be competitive with the Hoyas. But a win over the Big East Conference power was certainly not even under serious consideration by most fans and prognosticators across the country.
However, FGCU turned in an awesome performance on the way to a 78-68 win over Georgetown. In doing so, the Eagles-the #15 seed in the South-became only the seventh team at that slot in NCAA history to defeat a #2 seed in the Hoyas.
FGCU dominated Georgetown at both ends of the court. FGCU appeared to be the more athletic, fundamentally-sound squad, while the Hoyas seemed lost in a game that was far different from the “basketbrawl” style of play that they are so accustomed to in the Big East.
A big part of the win for FGCU was junior forward Chase Fieler-a native of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Fieler put together a solid stat line on the night with nine points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, but two of his points with 1:56 remaining in the contest were perhaps the most exciting of the tournament so far.
With FGCU point guard Brett Comer driving to the right side of the basket on a fast-break opportunity with two defenders on him, Fieler ran down the middle of the lane. Comer lofted an alley-oop pass which Fieler caught at least a foot above the rim and slammed it down through the cylinder. The FGCU team and their fans erupted into a frenzy of excitement, and the Eagles had an insurmountable 67-58 advantage on the way to their ten-point victory.
Asked about his highlight reel dunk after the game, Fieler commented: “Well, we pushed the ball ahead. I saw Brett Comer catch it in the corner and so I was on the floor. He has seen me all year. We have had a couple of connections on the lob. I think that might have been the highest I’ve ever been. We’ll have to check the video to see.”
Next up for FGCU in the Round of 32 is a Sunday evening game in Philadelphia against the San Diego State Aztecs. San Diego is a #7 seed and will probably be favored over FGCU. But an FGCU victory and a spot in the Sweet 16 would not be a big surprise anymore.
Patrick Hattman is a Parkersburg, West Virginia native and witnessed more than a few of Chase Fieler’s dunks when he was a star at Parkersburg South High School.