Sunshine State teams gleaming in NCAA spotlight
TribLIVE Sports Videos
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — March Madness in the Sunshine State has long meant little to most people in Florida.
Sure, the Florida Gators have been an NCAA Tournament staple during coach Billy Donovan's tenure, which includes back-to-back national championships (2006-07).
Everywhere else in the football-frenzied state, though, the closest fans usually get to college basketball's biggest stage is taking part in office pools and watching bracket-busting games on television.
Oh, have things changed this week.
With second-seeded Miami, third-seeded Florida and darling Florida Gulf Coast advancing in the NCAA Tournament, basketball has taken center stage across the peninsula. Throw in the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak, six shy of tying the NBA record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, and hoops is the hottest thing going in Florida.
Spring football? Not now. Baseball spring training? Please. Even the beautiful beaches can't compete with what's happening on the hardwood.
“This time of year, so many people are captivated by the NCAA Tournament,” Donovan said. “Certainly, when you have three teams from the state of Florida still playing in the NCAA Tournament and in the Sweet 16, I think it's certainly going to draw a lot of attention to basketball.”
It's certainly a change, too.
Not only does Florida have three schools in the round of 16 for the first time, each program reached milestones in this NCAA tourney.
Miami, the No. 2 seed in the East Regional, earned its highest seeding in school history and made it to the round of 16 for the first time since 2000 and second time since joining Division I in 1985.
The Hurricanes face third-seeded Marquette on Thursday in Washington.
Florida, the No. 3 seed in the South Regional, advanced to the round of 16 for the third year in a row — a first in the program's 18 tournament appearances. The Gators play streaking Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night in Arlington, Texas.
And there's little left to say about Florida Gulf Coast, which became the first 15 seed to advance to the round of 16 in tournament history. The Eagles knocked off Georgetown and San Diego State in Philadelphia over the weekend to make history, capturing fans along the way with their up-tempo offense, alley-oop passes and high-flying dunks.
When FGCU players returned to class Monday, they were greeted by applause. Later that night, about 4,000 fans attended a pep rally inside the school's arena to celebrate the program's accomplishment.
Can the run really continue?
“We think we can compete with them,” coach Andy Enfield said. “If we play well, we'll have a chance to win the game.”
Donovan agrees, saying FGCU shouldn't be considered “Cinderella” at this point.
“The country may give a team a label, but we never do that,” Donovan said. “This is a really good team that has played exceptionally well, that is maybe playing as well as anyone in the country right now.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ Harrison eyes stretch run
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin ends practice with third-down work
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Warrants issued for women accused of prostitution in New Stanton sting
- NFL notebook: Gifford had CTE, family says
- Starkey: Artie Rowell’s incredible odyssey
- Russia’s crackdown in predominantly Muslim region fuels exodus to ISIS
- Pirates sign free agent 1B-OF Goebbert, RHP Webster
- Pizza delivery woman robbed in Greensburg
- Obama signs $607B Defense bill but blasts GOP limits for Gitmo
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors