Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State, Marquette among NCAA tournament surprises

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

March Madness is living up to its name. The postseason NCAA men’s basketball tournament is in full swing, and the games have not failed to excite or entertain the fans.

For the first time ever, a No. 15 seed has advanced to the “Sweet 16.” The Cinderella of this year’s tournament has to be the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Eagles. They are the No. 15 seed in the South Region and had to face perennial powerhouse Georgetown in the first round.

They knocked off the Georgetown Hoyas convincingly 78-68. A couple of days later, they managed to keep the clock from striking midnight again when they scored another 10-point win over San Diego State University (81-71) in the second round.

Their next opponent just so happens to be one of the favorites in the entire tournament and also hails from the same state. They’ll have to beat the Florida Gators to keep their dreams of a national championship alive.

In addition to FGCU, there are a couple of other teams that have surprised a few of the experts and messed up millions of people’s brackets. Among them are the Wichita State Shockers led by their freshman and Rockfordian Fred Van Vleet. He nailed a 3-pointer with a little more than a minute to play to help them eliminate the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs 76-70 during the second round of the Midwest Region.

Van Vleet and his Shockers teammates will meet up with yet another team that has exceeded expectations in the tourney. LaSalle University was the No. 13 seed, and they upset Kansas State in the first round and got by Ol’ Miss in round two. Wichita State and LaSalle will face one another in their Sweet 16 game.

The other team that has captured the headlines in this area is the Marquette Golden Eagles from Milwaukee. After squeaking by No. 14 seed Davidson 59-58 in the first round, they scored another narrow victory (74-72) over No. 6 seed Butler in round two. Their next opponent is No. 2 seed Miami.

These are prime examples of why the NCAA basketball tournament truly is one of America’s premier sporting events. Here’s to the Shockers, Eagles and Golden Eagles. I hope at least one of you will continue “dancing.”

From the March 27-April 2, 2013, issue

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