March Madness has officially begun. Florida Gulf Coast became the first team to punch its ticket to the Big Dance this afternoon, capturing the Atlantic Sun championship by defeating top-seeded Mercer, 88-75.
The Eagles will be heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history when the brackets are announced next Sunday.
Here are five things you didn’t know about the Eagles:
1.They’ve only been around since 1997. The school was established in 1991 by then Florida-governor Lawton Chiles, and the first classes weren’t held until ’97. Safe to say there’s no Dead Poets Society at the school. Things that are older than FGCU: Justin Bieber, my grandma’s cat, Jerry Stackhouse’s NBA career, Super Mario World 2, and everyone who goes to school there.
2. They beat Miami earlier this season. In one of the most retroactively shocking results of the season, FGCU outclassed ACC champion and potential No. 1 seed Miami 63-51 on November 13. The Eagles didn’t just squeak past the ‘Canes, either. They went on a 23-2 run and outscored Miami 40-14 in the paint.
3. They’ve only been Division I for five years. Florida Gulf Coast joined the Atlantic Sun in 2008, as part of a run of expansion that saw nearly a dozen schools make the leap to D-1. In fact, this is just the second season that FGCU has even been eligible to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern fans must be just GIDDY about that fact.
4. They won in large part because Belmont left the league. Belmont has been the Gonzaga of the Atlantic Sun, winning the league tournament in five of the past seven seasons and thoroughly dominating everyone else. The dynastic Bruins beat the Eagles, 83-69 in last year’s championship game. But Belmont bolted for the Ohio Valley Conference this past season, and will now face Murray State in that league’s title game.
5. They are led by the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year. That’d be senior guard Sherwood Brown, who averages 15.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Bernard Thompson is also a solid young player, putting up 14 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.