published Monday, March 25th, 2013

Mark Wiedmer: Florida now the home of basketball?

Florida Gulf Coast's Dajuan Graf, from left, Eddie Murray and Brett Comer celebrate after winning a third-round game against San Diego State in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia.
Florida Gulf Coast's Dajuan Graf, from left, Eddie Murray and Brett Comer celebrate after winning a third-round game against San Diego State in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If history hadn't long ago declared otherwise, you might think after this weekend's NCAA Tournament games that Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball not in Springfield, Mass., but on a beach in Florida while on vacation.

Florida. Miami. Florida Gulf Coast.

Florida ... Gulf ... Coast?

Yes, Florida Gulf Coast, which beat Miami by 12 in the regular season and now faces Florida in this weekend's Sweet 16 in the monstrous arena just north of Dallas some know as Jerry's World.

After watching the fifteenth-seeded Eagles soar past second-seeded Georgetown in Friday's second round before blowing up San Diego State in Sunday night's round of 32, Boss Gator Billy Donovan might wish he could play the NBA's Dallas Mavericks rather than the first No. 15 seed to reach a regional semifinal.

"We tried to scrimmage them before the season," said FGCU coach Andy Enfield on Sunday. "Now we've got our shot."

All logic says that Enfield will get his shot at whatever open job he covets -- college or NBA -- as soon as the Eagles' season ends. Partly because of this current magical run. Partly because of that earlier win over Miami. Partly because he just might be, as others have stated the past 48 hours, the most interesting man in the world.

Or do you know anyone else who's been a success on Wall Street, coached in both the NBA as a shooting coach and the Atlantic Coast Conference as an assistant after playing his college ball at Johns Hopkins and, oh yeah, married a New York supermodel, despite smoothly wooing her with Taco Bell on their first date, which was an NIT game, of all things, between Virginia and St. John's?

"She stuck with me," Enfeild said of his first date with Amanda. "I got her a nice burrito, we sat behind the bench and I figured if she still liked me after Taco Bell and a basketball game ..."

See. Pretty interesting.

Another quote from Enfield to make you further wonder if the beautiful Amanda is really the mother of their three young children, or rather some Stepford Mom robot:

"What a sacrifice she made ... from flying all over the world to do fashion shoots to move to Tallahassee, Fla., which is a nice place, but it's not New York, it's not Milan, it's not Sydney and it's not Paris."

But from those days as an assistant at Florida State he somehow wound up in Fort Myers at FGCU a couple of years ago, where his team has swiftly become really good, even if you may never have heard of Sherwood Brown, Chase Fieler, Eddie Murray, Brett Comer and company.

Think a college fraternity team that can throw it down like Phi Slama Jama and you have some idea of what it's like watching FGCU, easily the most entertaining team left.

To that end, when asked about how he disciplines his team, Enfield said, "[If you don't listen to the coaches], you won't get fed tonight and you'll go to bed early."

Not that any Tennessee Vol basketball fans willing to identify themselves are likely to cheer for Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles are the only reason Mercer wasn't in the NCAA instead of the NIT, much to Tennessee's chagrin. Florida Gulf Coast won the Atlantic Sun Conference tourney, forcing the Bears to be content with that other tournament.

But the whole weekend was pretty interesting, from a few blown officials' calls (Just ask any Iowa State fan today about its loss to Ohio State) to the tournament's wise embrace of Big East and Big Ten teams, to its less admirable love affair with the Mountain West, whose five schools are all gone.

Never mind that more than a few brackets are in ruins. Or that more than one school will shout "My kingdom for a made free throw" throughout the summer. (Are you listening, Ole Miss?)

What's certain is that No. 1 seeds Kansas and Louisville were correctly seeded, fellow No. 1 Indiana may yet be and No. 1 Gonzaga once more proves that history does matter. The Zags haven't gotten past the round of 32 for four straight years. At some point, history matters. You know all that stuff about those who can't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

The BCS doesn't mind looking at past bowl performances to judge whether a league is deserving of retaining an automatic berth. Why can't the NCAA admit that a league or school that repeatedly can't advance past the round of 32 might at least deserve a lower seed?

Yet the tournament is really about the players, which brings us to Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, who hit the shot of this tournament when his 3-pointer a half-second ahead of the horn sent home Iowa State on Sunday afternoon.

An Ohio native, Craft was asked if he'd dreamed of this scenario as a young kid in his backyard, counting down two seconds, one second, shoot.

Said Craft, "Everybody knows I'm a defensive guy. I was probably in the backyard thinking three, two, one, take a charge."

Needless to say, Craft always gets fed and he never has to go to bed early.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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