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Dangerous Florida Gulf Coast rides free-wheeling style into Round of 32

Florida Gulf Coast will move on to face San Diego State in the Round of 32. (SI) Florida Gulf Coast will move on to face San Diego State in the Round of 32. (SI)

PHILADELPHIA – Florida Gulf Coast ran straight through Georgetown and into America’s heart on Friday night, playing with the swagger of a blue blood and verve of a veteran NCAA Tournament team.

They’ll advance to play No. 7 San Diego State on Sunday, and their presence in the Round of 32 offers an intriguing question: Do you want to play the hottest team in the NCAA Tournament?

“They are loose,” said San Diego State forward JJ O’Brien. “They are playing free out there. Those teams are dangerous. It’s going to be a good game.”

This statement would have been odd about 24 hours ago, but San Diego State matches up much better with Florida Gulf Coast than Georgetown. The Hoyas are so attached to their methodical system, it hurt them when they fell behind against FGCU. San Diego State runs a similarly a free-wheeling style like FGCU's, so expect the game to be in the 80s on Sunday.

A team gutsy enough to toss alley-oops at critical moments like FGCU will mesh well against a team whose best player, Jamaal Franklin, threw an alley-oop to himself off a backboard this season and led the nation in technical fouls. (Franklin finished with 21 and 8 against Oklahoma in the Aztecs impressive 70-55 win. And you must read this fantastic feature on him by SI’s Luke Winn.)

“It's two similar teams about to play against one another,” said San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland. “You know how Georgetown is, their system and they run it and run it and run it and it's been working for them.

“With us, sometimes I don’t even know if we have a system.”

And that’ll be just fine. Florida Gulf Coast will see a more athletic version of itself on Sunday. And that should be fun for anyone who tunes in. The Aztecs will take their cues from Franklin, which means anything can happen.

“He’s so loose,” Bland said. “Everyone else relaxes and plays loose. He just goes out and plays free and whatever happens, happens."

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