FGCU's Chase Fieler dunks during practice Thursday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Eagles play Florida at 9:57 p.m. tonight. / Kinfay Moroti/news-press.com
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ARLINGTON, Texas — If the FGCU men’s basketball team is intimidated by the prospect of taking on state rival and two-time national champion Florida in tonight’s NCAA South Regional at 80,000-seat Cowboys Stadium, the Eagles are sure doing a good job hiding it.
The biggest concern expressed Thursday seemed to be the inability to watch themselves on the stadium’s 2,100-inch high definition video board which hovers like an alien spacecraft over the court.
“Even if you make the big plays, it’s hard to get a good angle on that TV,” junior forward Chase Fieler said. “You have to stand right on the edge. We’ll have to run more towards the sideline to see.”
The No. 15 Eagles (26-10) aren’t planning on deviating from the pages in the playbook that’s propelled them into the Sweet 16 and tonight’s 9:57 p.m. game with No. 3 Florida (28-7).
“You’ll see a lot of fun probably from Sherwood Brown, with some kiss blowing toward you, some flexing,” sophomore guard Brett Comer said. “You’ll see Christophe Varidel do a heel click after a three. We’ll act the same and be the same, it’s just the way we are.”
FGCU has been able to maintain its lightheartedness despite the unprecedented media scrutiny that erupted after the Eagles’ pair of upset wins against No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State last weekend christened them as one of the best underdog stories in NCAA tournament history.
“It took us a day-and-a-half to recover mentally and physically,” FGCU coach Andy Enfield said. “So Tuesday’s practice was just OK. (Wednesday’s) was better and (Thursday) was better.
“But it’s all business now.”
While visits from ESPN, CNN, Good Morning America and a slew of other national, state and local media made life hectic this week, Enfield praised the way his team’s story has been told.
“I’m very appreciative of the job the media has done,” he said. “We’ve met some terrific people over the last week-and-a-half, two weeks. And I really give the media credit for being so enthusiastic and professional in their coverage of us.”
Senior forward Eddie Murray said the demands of the spotlight haven’t affected FGCU’s preparation for Florida.
“We did have two practices last week with no media and that gave us time to focus before we got to Dallas,” said Murray, whose team also held a strategic walk-through practice at the University of Dallas Thursday morning. “Our guys know our game plan at this point and it’s just continuing to go over it and preparing ourselves. I think we’re going to come out ready.”
Murray said the biggest message he’s trying to get across to his younger Eagles teammates is to appreciate the moment.
“They should have an amazing team next year as well but you never know how you’re going to do in the tournament,” he said. “I’m pretty sure Georgetown didn’t sit there and think they were going to be done in the first round.
“Especially for me, when I came in and we had some nine-win, 10-win seasons, we weren’t really doing too well. So to be here where we are today it’s a dream come true and it’s been an amazing experience.”