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FGCU Capable Of Playing David To Florida’s Goliath

david-and-goliathOne school has a pair of national championships, three Final Fours, and five Elite Eight appearances under its belt since March of 2000.  The other has been playing Division I basketball for all of two years.

With Florida Gulf Coast University into the Sweet Sixteen — the first #15 seed to ever go so far, in case you haven’t already heard 30 times — and facing off with big, bad Florida Friday night in Austin, Texas, you should prepare yourself to see plenty tale-of-the-tape comparisons between the two neighbors.

Not unlike this one:

 

  University of Florida   Florida Gulf Coast University
  Established   1853   1991 (Classes opened in 1997)
  Enrollment   49,589   12,683
  Endowment   $1.295 Billion   $57.1 Million
  NCAA Tourney Appearances   15 (2 vacated)   1
  NCAA Tourney Wins   34   2

 

The two schools are separated by 200 some-odd miles on a map, a million miles in terms of name recognition and past basketball achievements.  One is famous for the Gator chomp.  The other might be more famous for its coach’s ex-model wife.

FGCU’s Andy Enfield has been a head coach for two seasons — his school’s only two Division I seasons — and has won 40 games in his career.  UF’s Billy Donovan is in his 19th season.  A win on Friday over Enfield would be Donovan’s 45o career victory.

So do the underdog Eagles have a legitimate shot against the Gators, one of America’s top programs?  Of course.  And FGCU forward Eric McKnight is looking forward to it.  “That is going to be a great deal,” he said yesterday after the Eagles’ win over San Diego State.  “It’s going to be so much fun because we’ll have a chance to prove who’s the best in Florida.”

When asked who is the best in Florida, McKnight didn’t hesitate: “FGCU.  FGCU.”

Gator fans shouldn’t laugh.  The Eagles have an RPI of 67 which puts them in the same company with several SEC bubble teams this year.  They’re also a pretty respectable 3-3 against RPI top 50 teams.  They beat one #2 seed in Georgetown to begin their tournament run.  Back in November they beat another eventual #2 seed — Miami — 63-51.

If McKnight and can crew topple Miami and Florida in the same season the Eagles really will be able to call themselves Sunshine State champs this year.

 


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