First team in: Florida Gulf Coast beats Mercer to win Atlantic Sun bid
After months of bracket projections, we finally have our first piece of concrete information. Florida Gulf Coast will be in the field of 68 that's announced next Sunday, having nabbed the nation's initial dance ticket via a 88-75 win over Mercer in the Atlantic Sun final. This is the Eagles' first-ever trip to the NCAAs, who just finished a transition from Division II in 2011.
Florida Gulf Coast has been a bit of a talking point nationally this season thanks to their early-season home win (yes, home) over Miami (by 12!) when the Hurricanes were without point guard Durand Scott. Now the nation will get to see that this is a pretty solid, defensive-oriented team that won't be a pushover in its first-round game in a little under two weeks. The Eagles also played at VCU and Duke early in the season, so they won't see a more hostile situation in the NCAAs, even if they land in a 2-15 game.
Good for head coach Andy Enfield (who was a senior at Johns Hopkins when I spent my freshman year there before transferring) and for a university that was only established in 1991. This is the type of payoff universities are looking for when they invest in a move into major-college athletics. A lot more people are going to know about the school and this team now, with a virtual freeroll to make even more of a name for themselves and their university.