PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Georgetown has been to five Final Fours in its rich basketball history. Florida Gulf Coast University, the Hoyas’ opponent in the second round of the NCAA tournament, has been a Division I program for six years.
Don’t feel bad for the upstart Eagles, though. Georgetown coach John Thompson III doesn’t.
“We’re going to do what we do, they’re going to do what they do,” Thompson said Thursday, a day before the teams meet in the second round of the South Regional. “A lot of times, when you get to the NCAA tournament and you look at lower-seeded teams, they’re very good teams, but physically, they don’t match up. Florida Gulf Coast is a very athletic team. They aren’t a small team that just happens to be playing well right now.
“They’re playing well right now, but physically they match up with teams in our conference. They’re as athletic, as bouncy, as teams in our conference.”
If Thompson’s comments aren’t enough, how about Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose Blue Devils beat FGCU 88-67 just five days after the Eagles beat Miami, Fla. 63-51?
“They are unbelievably well-coached,” Krzyzewski said, referring to Andy Enfield. “You talk about a coach being able to use his personnel to the maximum, and he does that. We had a good game with them, we just had this hellacious run in the game that kind of just blew it open. But it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve had the year that they’ve had.”
Enfield set up a demanding early schedule that featured not only Duke and Miami but Iowa State and VCU, too.
“We challenged our team this year because we knew we would have a pretty good team,” he said. “The Miami game was a big win for us but those other games we really competed in.”
Eighth-ranked Georgetown (25-6) was one of the tri-champions of the Big East and the Hoyas were eliminated in the conference tournament by Syracuse.
FGCU (24-10) finished second in the Atlantic Sun regular season and then beat Mercer in the tournament championship game. It was the second season the Eagles had been eligible for postseason play and they took it to the NCAA level.
And now they get Georgetown, one of the best defensive teams in the country.
The Hoyas held 20 opponents under 60 points this season and the 55.7 points they gave up per game had them seventh in the NCAA. Teams shot 37.6 percent from the field against them, fourth-best in the NCAA.
“We’ve done an excellent job all year of playing great defense, and hopefully we do pride ourselves on our defense, and we will continue to do that,” guard Markel Starks said.
The Eagles come in averaging 73.1 points and they shoot 46.0 percent from the field, including 33.9 percent from 3-point range.
The winner will play either San Diego State or Oklahoma on Sunday.
“We understand we might be a little bit outsized but we’re going to try to use our strengths against them and see what happens,” said reserve forward Eddie Murray, one of four players in eight-man FGCU rotation 6-foot-8 or taller.
Thompson, who has three players 6-8 or taller in the starting lineup including Big East player of the year Otto Porter Jr., was asked about slowing down the Eagles.
“No one has figured out how to do that all year,” he said. “They’re outstanding, I think, at getting what they want, and as it relates to when they’re on offense they spread you out, they have shooters and guys that can attack the basket and they pose problems. ... So on our defensive end, we are going to have to be very, very good.”
Enfield, 43, a former assistant coach at Florida State and for some NBA teams where he specialized in player development, was the co-founder of a Wall Street software company in the health care field that was valued at $100 million.
He’s doing what he wants now and that’s coaching in the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t look at my life as charmed,” Enfield said. “I do feel blessed to have a wonderful wife (former supermodel Amanda Marcum) and three children and be in a position where I have a good job and I’m having a lot of fun.
This is what I wanted to do, be a Division I basketball coach.”