Florida Gulf Coast's run ends in Sweet 16 heartbreak
ARLINGTON, Texas -- So long, Dunk City.
We had a great week together, Florida Gulf Coast and I, but we both knew it had to end this way. Except for those flings I had with George Mason, Butler and VCU, these relationships always start hot, burn bright and then fizzle by the following weekend.
I'll never forget that time last Friday when Brett Comer threw the ball off the Georgetown defender's butt, grabbed the carom and dropped in a layup. I'll never forget when the guy sitting at our table at the sports bar in the Detroit suburbs did the airplane around the place after Comer threw that alley-oop to Chase Fieler to slam the door on the Hoyas. I'll never forget all those dunks against San Diego State, though I'll be darned if I can remember a specific one. I was probably too caught up in the moment. These relationships are intense that way. I'll never forget learning manager Dan Thomas' dance or walking on your dorm-side beach. We'll always have that breezy day in Fort Myers.
So, who does everyone have in that Florida-Michigan Elite Eight game on Sunday?
Oh, don't be like that, Eagles. I'll always have a special place in my heart for you, but things changed Friday during that 62-50 loss to Florida. It's not you. It's me. I've got to move on. After all, there's a national championship at stake.
I thought for a minute we might continue this dalliance through the weekend. When Sherwood Brown threw down a Comer lob a little more than four minutes in, I wondered if you had staying power. When you took that 15-4 lead after six minutes, I dared to dream. You did, too. "Early on," forward Eddie Murray said, "it looked like we were going to score 100 points."
And it seemed as if Florida would wither. The Gators missed 16 of their first 20 shots. They couldn't throw the ball in the ocean -- or even in that man-made lake whose waves lap on your dorm-side beach. Man, I love that dorm-side beach. That's what makes this so difficult.
See, things got a little stale. You got careless. Not with my heart; with the ball. You committed 13 first-half turnovers, most of them as Florida turned that 11-point deficit into a four-point halftime lead. You also got predictable. No, really. Ask Florida center Patric Young. "They were really predictable in what they were going to do," he said. "Especially Comer. When he drives to the baseline, he's looking for a lob or to pass the ball. He's not looking to score. ... He's never really looking for his shot. Once we were able to disrupt him and get him out of his game, it was over with."
It didn't help that Florida went small late in the second half and matched your energy. It was your bad luck that Gators glue guy Will Yeguete felt the best he has since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Feb. 8. Yeguete didn't light the net on fire, but he did have four steals, four rebounds, two blocks and a charge taken in 21 minutes. "We need him to win," Young said.
You had a great run, Dunk City. There is no shame in losing to a team that will play in its third consecutive Elite Eight. In one blazing hot weekend, you put your school on the map. "We made history," Comer said. "We did something nobody in the nation thought we could do."
Now, the tournament marches on. Four more teams will get sent home this weekend, and four will cut down nets and go to Atlanta. Dunk City, I'll see you again when the horns blast and Luther Vandross sings. We had our Shining Moment, didn't we?
Maybe, just maybe, we'll rekindle that fire next March in Buffalo or Spokane or Raleigh. Or maybe I'll hook up with another school with a high-flying style, a quirky little campus and a coach with a smokin'-hot wife. Even if that happens -- and I'm not saying it will (OK, it will) -- no one can ever take away the week we shared, not even those heartless cynics who chanted "Al-most mid-night" with 40 seconds remaining Friday.
Besides, think about all you learned this week. "The biggest thing we learned and probably a lot of America has learned is just believe in yourself, even when no one else believes in you," Brown said. "If you believe in yourself you can pretty much do anything that you set your mind to."
So set your mind to getting over the hurt of the end of this fling, Dunk City. Start thinking about your next one. You danced into our hearts once. We'd love for you to do it again.