FGCU coach Andy Enfield signs autographs on Thursday at Cowboy Stadium.
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Florida is the No. 3 seed in the South Region but you'd have to look far and wide to find someone convinced No. 15 seed FGCU is a massive underdog.
“Well, things have certainly changed in a week,” Eagles coach Andy Enfield said. “We knew going into the Georgetown game we could win the game, we prepared to win it like any other game in our schedule. We were confident. We beat a great Mercer team on our home court to win a championship.
“Now things have changed dramatically because not only did we beat Georgetown, we beat San Diego State, and we’re in the Sweet 16, the first time a 15 seed has ever been here. It was history. And I told our players, you deserve to enjoy that.”
Enfield said point guard Brett Comer has made huge strides.
“Brett sees the floor as well as any point I’ve seen. He is . . . he just has a gift of seeing the play develop. And he makes the pass as the plays develop or even before the plays develop,” Enfield said. “And it's amazing how his improvement — last year he led the nation in turnovers or close to it. He led our league in assists or turnovers. This year his assist turnover ratio is much better.
“He’s become a leader, he’s more mature. And he’s averaged 12 assists in two NCAA tournament games, in two games. It’s impressive. He is as crucial to our success or potential success against Florida with all those good guards.
“But Brett has developed . . . I knew he was talented, but he has really surpassed what I thought he could be as a sophomore.”
Comer confessed on Thursday the Eagles weren’t exactly that well known even in his home before he went there.
“Everybody talks about Florida. Nobody talks about Florida Gulf Coast,” he said. “Sherwood (Brown) and me are from Orlando, we didn’t know what it was before we came here, but everyone has heard of Florida.”
At first, the Eagles weren’t getting much attention. But that's changed.
“A lot of the first news conferences a lot of people weren’t really sure of the questions to ask us,” Chase Fieler said. “They looked at us with blank stares and talked about the feeling of being in the NCAA. So the week has come and now they're asking us how to prepare for a No. 3 team or they have questions for us personally. They know a lot more about our school. It’s come a long way, the recognition of our players as well as our school. You guys have asked a lot of great questions, and know us almost on a personal level.”
Florida’s Erik Murphy is a 6-foot-10 forward who's dunked a few times in his career. He's an admirer of all the slams the Eagles have had in the Big Dance.
“Obviously they are really athletic across the front line,” Murphy said. “But my dad always told me dunks are worth two points. We've just got to try to take one of those easy baskets. But a dunk, layup, two points, same thing. Those plays energize them, though, so we want to try to limit them.”
Billy Donovan knows Enfield well. Enfield was an assistant at Florida State for several years.
“It’s tremendous what they’ve done,” Donovan said. “It’s been a great ride for them. They’ve done some incredible things. NCAA tournament history-wise this has never happened.”
FGCU is the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16.
“If it’s utilized the correct way, it’s all good,” Donovan said of taking advantage of the success. “And that’s I think the one exciting part about the tournament in a lot of ways.”
Florida players really didn’t seem bothered that FGCU is a media darling. Dozen of reporters piled outside the locker room waiting to get in. Florida had about a third as much media in its dressing room.
“We’re really not too concerned with that,” Scottie Wilbekin said. “The media always finds something to really get behind but we really can’t worry about that. We have a game to play.”