PHILADELPHIA -- Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Hoyas from Georgetown?
Not the players from Florida Gulf Coast University, or FGCU as they would like to be known from here on out, because they expect to become a fixture in the NCAA Tournament.
No. 15 seed FGCU’s first taste of March Madness begins against second-seeded Georgetown (25-6) at 6:50 p.m. Friday in a South Regional game.
“Playing against a team like this is a good opportunity to show what we can do,” said 6-8 junior Chase Fieler, the third-leading scorer for the Eagles (24-10). “But we’ve had opportunities like this over our careers, playing Ohio State, Duke and VCU.
“We’re really loose, and we’re confident. We realize we’re in the NCAA Tournament, so the pressure we have is what we put on ourselves. We know we can win. We’re just trying to stay focused on that.”
In November, FGCU knocked off eventual Atlantic Coast Conference champion Miami 63-51 in between losses to VCU and Duke.
Eagles coach Andy Enfield, who admits friends questioned his sanity when he announced he was taking over the helm of a school many believed was only a junior college, said there was a purpose in loading up like that, which already has paid dividends.
“We wanted to challenge our players early in the season,” said Enfield, who has gone 39-27 since taking over a 10-20 program two years ago. “We scheduled VCU, Miami, Duke, St. John’s and Iowa State. Four of those teams are in the tournament right now. Georgetown is just like all those other teams.”
And although the name might conjure up memories for some of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and the original John Thompson patrolling the sidelines with a scowl and his towel — rather than his son, J.T. III, who took over the reins eight years ago — FGCU’s players don’t seem the least bit intimidated.
“I know Allen Iverson went there, and he’s one of my favorite players,” said Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Sherwood Brown, a 6-4 shooting guard who is FGCU’s leading scorer. “But it feels good to be able to play against them and show them and show the world what we’re capable of.
“Beating Miami definitely gives us a lot of confidence. It makes us realize even though Georgetown might be a little bigger than us, if you play hard and play good defense, you can win.”
That’s the mind-set Enfield’s tried to establish by putting together a team that thrives in the open floor and can score in bunches. He wants his players to attack Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter and the rest of the Hoyas that same way.
“We’re confident in our system,” Enfield said. “We understand how great defensively Georgetown is.
“We also know we have to run the ball at opportune times and push the ball in transition. But Georgetown just makes you play their style sometimes, and if you can’t adjust to it, you usually lose.”