I descended upon Philadelphia Thursday morning with intentions of seeing the city’s history and good basketball, but got more than what I bargained for. NCAA tournament history was made in the city of Brotherly Love by the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast University when they shocked #2 Georgetown 78-68 Friday, then became the first #15 seed ever to advance to the Sweet 16 with an 81-71 win over San Diego State Sunday. With two double-digit wins and athleticism that makes them fun to watch, FGCU is far from your average #15 seed. The Eagles will face another team from the Sunshine State, Florida in the round of 16 on Friday.
The city of Philadelphia rejoiced once more when their very own #13 La Salle Explorers won two games by two points, defeating #4 Kansas State 63-61 Friday, then made their way into the Sweet 16 with a win over #12 Ole Miss 76-74. La Salle has a shot of making the Great Eight, as they play a very winnable game against #9 Wichita State, who knocked off #1 Gonzaga. I swear I think I heard the sound of millions of people ripping up their brackets from my room at the Palomar (a boutique Kimpton Hotel that is a great choice while in Philadelphia) in a fit of March Madness.
Louisville, who won the Big East Tournament on the eve of St Patrick’s Day, have been the most impressive team in the field of 64 thus far, defeating #16 North Carolina A&T and #8 Colorado State by a combined 57 points to advance to the Sweet 16. As the overall #1 seed of the tournament, it is a surprise to no one that the Cardinals are playing this well.
Syracuse and Marquette from the Big East are still in the tournament, but both have tough matchups in the round of 16. The Orangemen face #1 seed Indiana, while Marquette will face ACC regular season and tournament winner Miami. In other Big East news, St. John’s was eliminated from the NIT by Virginia 68-50 Sunday.
I would expect National powerhouses like Louisville and Duke to be around next week, but I didn’t expect for Georgetown and Gonzaga to be gone so early. In a single-elimination quest to win six games against six different teams, on any given day, underdogs can become lifetime heroes with a single win, and that is the beauty of the NCAA tournament.