The 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles will play their first-ever NCAA Tournament game on Friday night in Philadelphia when they take on the second-seeded Georgetown Hoyas in South Region second-round action.
The winner will advance to Sunday's third round to play either San Diego State or Oklahoma.
FGCU (24-10) had a strong season in the Atlantic Sun, going 13-5, but it played second-fiddle to Mercer all season long until it downed the Bears in convincing fashion in the conference tournament championship game, 88-75. The Eagles accomplished the feat in just their second year of Division I postseason eligibility, and they prepared themselves well for this test in their non-conference schedule with clashes against VCU, Duke and Iowa State. They also hosted Miami-Florida on Nov. 13 and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season with a 63-51 win.
While Georgetown ended the season on a disappointing note with a 58-55 overtime defeat at the hands of Syracuse in the semifinals of the Big East Conference Tournament, it still put together an impressive campaign at 25-6 overall and 14-4 in arguably the toughest conference in the nation. The Hoyas are one of the most well-represented teams in tournament history, making 29 appearances, including seven in nine years under current head coach John Thompson III, and this marks the fourth time in program history that they have been granted a No. 2 seed.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two squads in men's basketball.
Although the A-Sun is not considered to be a strong conference, FCGU nonetheless showed tremendous balance at both ends of the floor this season, scoring 73.1 ppg on 46 percent from the field while yielding 66.7 ppg. The team also helped itself with positive turnover (+1.2) and rebounding (+1.2) differentials. A big reason for the Eagles' success is because of the play of Sherwood Brown, who averages 15.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 1.4 spg and was named the A-Sun Player of the Year. Bernard Thompson is also having an outstanding campaign with 14.0 ppg, and he is one of the nation's top thieves with 2.8 spg. Chase Fieler (12.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Brett Comer (7.9 ppg, 6.3 apg) also play significant roles.
The Hoyas' claim to fame this season has been their outstanding defense, which ranks near the top of Division I in allowing just 55.7 ppg on 37.6 percent shooting, and while their offensive attack hasn't been spectacular (64.6 ppg, .456), it has been plenty good enough to help the team to rise to elite status. The straw that stirs the drink at both ends of the court is Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter. The 6-foot-8 forward does plenty of damage on offense, scoring 16.8 ppg with great percentages from the floor (.489), 3- point range (.427) and the foul line (.781), but what makes him one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country is his ability to stuff the stat sheet, adding 7.4 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.9 spg and 0.9 bpg. Markel Starks is reliable out on the perimeter with 12.5 ppg on 59-of-141 from beyond the arc (.418).