If you type “Florida Gulf Coast” into Google Images, you’ll get pictures of beautiful beaches. What you won’t get much of, pictures of the men’s basketball team, may soon be much more prevalent. After defeating Mercer on their home floor to advance to the Atlantic Sun Final, Florida Gulf Coast could be dancing in their first eligible postseason since reclassifying to Division I. The win over Mercer was arguably the biggest in the program’s history.
What awaits the Eagles in the finals is a Belmont team that is not only in consideration for an at-large berth, but also defeated the Eagles twice this season by a combined 62 points. Something tells me that when the two teams take the floor in Georgia tonight, neither will be intimidated. USC Upstate had beaten Gulf Coast twice this season, but couldn’t finish when it matters. Mercer had beaten Gulf Coast twice this season, but couldn’t finish when it matters. And now, Belmont has beaten Gulf Coast twice this season, and more than likely need to win this game to get into the NCAA Tournament.
March is a crazy thing, and sometimes there is nothing more dangerous than a team on a roll, with nothing to lose. Gulf Coast shouldn’t be here in their first eligible season. They shouldn’t be in position to make the big dance, where they would surely be in one of the play-in games. But none of that matters. Every kid has the same dream, and dreams are difficult to take away. Despite being under .500, the Eagles are a tested team. They went all over the country in the non-conference schedule and came up just short on many occasions. They lost at TCU by 1, at SMU by 1, at Miami by 10, at Maryland by 6, at Loyola by 3, at Nebraska by 1. Sooner or later, some of those losses turn into wins.
A week before Selection Sunday, we could have our first Cinderella squad. One thing is for sure… after being thoroughly embarrassed in their first two meetings with Belmont, Gulf Coast will not back down in this game. Best of luck as both teams look to lock up a spot to the NCAA Tournament.