On Friday night, an unlikely match-up between two Florida schools is going down in the game of the millennium (of the week)!
by Benjamin Miraski
After two games of doing the impossible, Florida Gulf Coast is going to have to continue to do the same against the Gators on Friday night. For the third time, the Eagles will need to pressure the ball on defense and turn deflections in the passing lanes into transition baskets. Somehow they did this against Georgetown and San Diego State, two teams that don't turn the ball over. Then they met Bernard Thompson, one of the best at getting his hands in the way in all of college basketball.
Andy Enfield's team also has to control the tempo and avoid getting trapped into Florida game. All it will take is pushing the matter from the start, much like they did against the Hoyas. Georgetown came out flat, and by the time they recovered, it was over. Florida usually doesn't let teams get the best of them early on, so the emphasis will be on Brett Comer to continue running the way he has since this Tournament tipped.
M.O. and History
by Benjamin Miraski
Enfield - who was an assistant at Florida State, and knows this Florida squad well -- took over a team last year that was basically left for dead by the previous coach. But he sat each player on the team down and explained how he was going to change the culture in Fort Myers. This was a guy who had no prior coaching experience; these guys had to take it on blind faith that he could do it. He opened up every position on the floor to competition and a team that was 39-82 in its first four Division 1 seasons is now 41-27 in its last two years, and just missed having the chance to do this last year when they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. The combination of the lockdown defense, and the run and gun attack of #DunkCity has paid off.
Ask the locals: Gators
by Andy Hutchins
Kenny the Enigma
Kenny Boynton is Florida's all-time leader in minutes played and threes made, and is fewer than 100 points back of the Gators' official lead in scoring. (Vernon Maxwell holds the unofficial record because of his, er, versatility as a scorer.) But Boynton, an excellent defender and a smart slasher, is Florida's most frustrating player, thanks to the erratic nature of his imperfect shot and the frequency with which he launches it. If Boynton's hot, Florida can beat any team in a walk. If not...
Close games and crises
Florida is 28-7 in 2012-13, and it's 28-1 in games decided by double digits and 0-6 in games decided by single digits. This is used as proof of Florida's inability to close, and with little evidence to the contrary (Florida has staved off rallies, but come back from second-half deficits just twice, both times against Alabama), has become the foundation for the greatest concern about these Gators. Fortunately, Billy Donovan is 5-1 in Sweet Sixteen games; the chorus of "Can Florida survive a close game?" will likely be muted until a potential Elite Eight matchup.
Cast of characters
by Andy Hutchins
Sherwood “Wood” Brown
Florida Gulf Coast's dreaded sniper has some of the deepest brown eyes you will ever see, and has made five of nine threes in the NCAA Tournament. He's also shaken announcers' hands with minutes to go against Georgetown and shortly after beating San Diego State.
White Boy Who Can Jump
Fieler has Gulf Coast's highest Offensive Rating, a product of fantastic 64 percent shooting on two-pointers that is partially fueled by ups that allow frequent throwdowns. But Fieler can stroke it, too, making 38 percent of his threes on the year.
Heart and And1 Soul
Comer's arm bears a tattoo with a verse he cobbled together from various sources entitled “Pursuit of Happiness”; it was inked in January, right around the third anniversary of the death of Comer's father. Comer plays with enough joie de vivre to make pursuing more a sublime task, feeding his high-flying teammates a steady diet of alley-oops and charging the rim on his own.
Mayor of Dunk City
The confidence of Florida Gulf Coast's coach has his own backstory — one that has changed over the last 48 hours, but retains the fact of "tall former athlete marries model Amanda Marcum," easily spun as the first time in human history a jock has wedded an attractive woman. Never mind that Enfield recruited from the room where she gave birth, folks: He’s just a committed coach. His unflappability led him to record the highest free throw percentage in Division III history for Johns Hopkins, and has helped keep him confident in the face of the mighty Gators.
Murphy’s among the best three-point shooters in the nation, making 46 percent of his threes, and his quick release in catch-and-shoot situations combines with his height to make him Florida's most nightmarish matchup. Murphy also uses long arms and a 6’10” frame to help guard the rim, where Florida opponents take just 27 percent of their shots. (Florida Gulf Coast gets 44 percent of its shots at the rim.)
Wilbekin has emerged as Florida’s finest point guard since Taurean Green in 2012-13, which is no small feat, considering his competition for the title is 2009 NBA Draft pick Nick Calathes and three-year starter Erving Walker. A defensive whiz, Wilbekin may switch onto and off of Brown and Comer all night, and his ability to penetrate and hit threes on offense will tax the Eagles. Oh, and he's a 19-year-old junior who turns 20 on the day before the 2013 Final Four.
by Steve Lepore
Steve Kerr says things, and that is literally all we know about Steve Kerr as an announcer.
Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager have the call for TBS’ broadcast of the game. Not for nothing, but they’re probably the perfect broadcast team to call this one. Marv still has enough gravitas to announce any game he wants, while it allows CBS to keep Jim Nantz following the Dukies around as he is won to do. Plus, seriously, who else do you want following around a “isn’t it weird that this is happening?!?!?!?” kind of story than Craig Sager? Sager almost feels like someone who would’ve graduated from FGCU… if it had you know, existed when he was in college.