South Regional Preview: FGCU remains the biggest story in sports
The biggest story not only in this region, not only in this tournament or in college hoops, but in the entire sports universe, is Florida Gulf Coast. Dunk City. Florida Dunk Coast. Whatever we want to call it, this 15 seed is the darling narrative, the best story in college basketball to reach a wider audience since Butler made back-to-back national title games.
The biggest story: Not only in this regional, not only in this tournament or in college hoops, but in the entire sports universe at the moment: Florida Gulf Coast. Dunk City. Florida Dunk Coast. Whatever we want to call it, this 15 seed is the darling narrative, the best story in college basketball to reach a wider audience since Butler made back-to-back national title games.
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We're still in the mix of the joy and surprise of this team actually doing this. Soon enough we'll turn to the game against Florida and examine if FGCU actually stands a chance. Naturally, few are saying it will win. The Gators have a habit of beating opponents and doing it by wide margins. We'll see. UF's failed to win a game decided by single digits this season.
What I enjoy most about the FGCU story is how this team won its first two games. Most Cinderella groups win one and then pack up come the Round of 32. Not the Eagles. And most lower-seeded teams win over a game and a crowd by hitting a few big shots from deep. FGCU does the inverse: It got its biggest buckets by way of the jam. It's unlike anything we've ever seen before in the NCAA tournament.
The best possible game: Give me Michigan-Florida as the best possible matchup. The Wolverines and the Gators are the two most talented teams in this bracket. Michigan hasn't been to a Final Four since the Fab Five days. Florida has been much more recently, but fallen short the past two years in the Elite Eight as well. I think the actual person-to-person matchups will be great as well. Scottie Wilbekin on Nik Stauskas? Will Yeguete perhaps going against Tim Hardaway Jr.? Patric Young vs. Mitch McGary? A lot of enticement there.
Plus, Michigan's playing the way it did when it was the No. 1 team in the country back in January. A lot of people forgot about that team.
The three best players remaining:
1. Trey Burke (Michigan). The best point guard in the nation has no equal in this regional. Brett Comer of Florida Gulf Coast is probably the second-best, and he's nowhere close to the talent of Burke.
2. Ben McLemore (Kansas). Talent-wise, there is no question McLemore is only behind Burke at this point. It's all a matter of aggressiveness. The future top-five NBA pick has a tendency, still, to disappear in games. If that happens against Michigan then Kansas will probably lose.
3. Jeff Withey (Kansas). Two Kansas players here, yet I think Michigan gets it done. That's in part because of KU's lack of a point guard. But Withey's credentials as a big man, especially on defense, are well-documented. He's better than Young at Florida and McGary at Michigan.
Rank the remaining four teams:
4) Florida Gulf Coast
Why Michigan will be going to Atlanta ... The Wolverines now have the second-best offense in the nation, scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions, that number adjusted for tempo. It's really good, second only to Indiana. The Burke factor is huge. I am a sucker for really, undeniably good point guards at this time of the year. Burke doesn't make mistakes as often as Aaron Craft and he's got a better set of tools on his hip than Shane Larkin or Peyton Siva. He'll be huge. In general, Michigan remains to have options at every position. Stauskas is actually a fairly good penetrator in addition to being a threat from 22 feet. Hardaway can spark big runs. McGary has come along as much as any player since November. And Glenn Robinson III has shown some verve recently, putting up 21 points and six rebounds against South Dakota State. Overall, the team has as much balance and weaponry as anyone in this tournament. Play a little D, and Atlanta will be the next stop.
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