In its return to March Madness, Florida Gulf Coast, as a 16 seed, is headed to Dayton to face Fairleigh Dickinson in the First Four on Tuesday. The winner of this "play-in" game will take on No. 1 North Carolina in Raleigh on Thursday.
While many predicted that the Eagles resume, compared to other teams that pulled off upsets to win their conference tournaments, would keep them away from Dayton, the committee decided otherwise. While competing in the First Four gives FGCU a better opportunity to pick up a NCAA win, it also means a quick turnaround. The Eagles fly to Dayton Monday morning, and if victorious on Tuesday, would fly to Raleigh for a Thursday night battle with North Carolina.
"Here's the bottom line. There's 68 teams playing and there's 351 Division I programs. So we're one of the 68 teams playing, we're proud," head coach Joe Dooley said. "The NCAA made the decision. We'll go out there and play as hard as we can on Tuesday night."
The two teams will match up at 6:40 pm E.T. on TruTV for the first game of the NCAA Tournament.
FDU is 18-14 on the season and made a run in the NEC Tournament, defeating Wagner, 87-79, in the championship to win their fifth straight game. The Knights are led by 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Darian Anderson (15.4 points per game).
"Obviously they had a strong finish to their season. Greg Herenda has done a really good job with the program," Dooley said. "I think our guys will be excited and ready to play Tuesday night in Dayton."
The team watched film on a number of different potential opponents, including Fairleigh Dickinson, prior to Sunday's Selection Show. The Eagles will now turn their full attention to the Knights, with the coaching staff immediately beginning to scout FDU on Sunday night.
"They play some zone, quite a bit of zone - similar to some of the teams in our league so we'll have a clearer picture tonight," Dooley said.
With Fairleigh Dickinson averaging just 33.6 rebounds per game (299th in the nation), it looks as if the FGCU big men will have an advantage inside.
"Hopefully we can continue to rebound. We've had our spurts where we've been a very good rebounding team consistently on the season. We usually have, that's something we'll continue to emphasize," Dooley said.
Should FGCU top Fairliegh Dickinson, they will head to Raleigh for a Thursday night game against the No. 1 seeded UNC Tar Heels. Right below the Eagles in the bracket, and also in Raleigh on Thursday, is former FGCU head coach Andy Enfield and the University of Southern California. The No. 8 seeded Trojans are taking on No. 9 Providence.