Florida Gulf Coast savors its ride to NCAA tournament's Sweet 16

AP Basketball WriterMarch 26, 2013 

FORT MYERS -- Sherwood Brown only wanted a bagel.

The Florida Gulf Coast star walked into a restaurant on campus Monday and was quickly surrounded. People wanted autographs. People wanted photos. People just wanted to yell words of encouragement.

A school that opened a mere 16 years ago finds itself front-and-center in March Madness, one of only 16 college basketball teams left from a field of 68, hoping to win the NCAA national championship.

"I had no idea it was going to be like this, but I'm loving it," Brown said as he made his escape from the shop. "I feel like we're getting a lot of America behind us. I guess you could say we're a part of America's team at this point."

And the Eagles spent the day savoring their moment.

Lines in the campus bookstore snaked from one side to the other, more than 100 people waiting for the chance to pay for their FGCU shirts and hats. Phone lines were jammed by those seeking tickets for this weekend's South Regional, and even the university president half-seriously wondered if he would be able to obtain what he needed. And as they arrived at classes, players were met with applause.

"It's so brand new," Eagles coach Andy Enfield said Monday, as emails popped into his mailbox at a fairly dizzying rate. "No one knows -- no one knew -- what FGCU stood for, the letters. Now it puts our university in a national spotlight and rightly so, because this is a great place. It's a young, vibrant university with just a lot of energy. I've been trying to tell that story to a lot of people."

The Eagles play Florida in the South Regional semifinals Friday night, two wins from a most-improbable trip to the Final Four. Seeded 15th in their region, FGCU knocked off both No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State in Philadelphia over the weekend to keep their season going.

Enfield's lone mistake so far in the NCAA tournament may have been what happened when he went to bed around 5:30 a.m. Monday, roughly two hours after the Eagles landed home in Fort Myers after punching their ticket to the regional semifinals.

Before Enfield went to sleep, he forgot to silence his ringer. Suffice to say, he was awakened long before he wanted.

Here's maybe the best way to explain what's happening right now with FGCU: In a state where the Gators are back in the regional semifinals, where the Miami Hurricanes (who lost to FGCU early this season) are still alive in the field and look very much like a title contender, and as the Miami Heat took a 26-game winning streak into their game at Orlando on Monday, it's the Eagles who might be the best story.

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