PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 24: Sherwood Brown #25 of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles celebrates with teammates on the bench in the second half while taking on the San Diego State Aztecs during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Center on March 24, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Saying an underdog is a "Cinderella" is the cliche of choice for the NCAA Tournament.
It's never been so fitting as it is right now.
Florida Gulf Coast University, a school that has only played Division-1 basketball for two years; a school that has only been a school for 16 years; a school that was given a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the proverbial tune-up opponent for Georgetown; THAT school is going to the Sweet 16.
FGCU beat San Diego State 81-71 in the 3rd round. The Eagles are the first 15 seed ever to win two games in the Big Dance. They're either the greatest 15 seed in history, or the Selection Committee made a horrible miscalculation in their assessment.
Either way, it means the Aztecs' season is over. San Diego State was in a close, exciting game until the 11:35 mark of the second half. Xavier Thames made a free throw to cut the Eagles' lead to 54-52. That's when they went ice-cold from the field, missing 10 straight shots. FGCU took advantage, going on a 17-0 run that the Aztecs could not overcome.
The Eagles (fitting mascot since they played these games in Philadelphia, the home of the NFL's Eagles) shot nearly 56% from the field.
It was the final game in the career of senior guard Chase Tapley, the only player in SDSU history to go to the NCAA Tournament 4 straight years. Head coach Steve Fisher summed up the game, and the season, quite nicely.
"When it ends, it ends dramatically," said Fisher after the loss. "It ends in a train wreck. When it ends, it's never fun. And, there are tears, and there should be. But, the pride through the tears is what I'll remember. We wanted to win the league. We didn't. We wanted to win the Conference Tournament. We didn't. We wanted to make the NCAA Tournament. We did. We won a game, only the second time we've done that. But it's not enough for anybody, including me. We want more. But I think that's what happens when you grow a program. You raise expectations, and I'm proud of the fact that we do have a program now."
The Aztecs are losing Tapley, James Rahon and DeShawn Stephens to graduation. They might lose Jamaal Franklin to the NBA. There's still an awful lot of talent on the Mesa. If Franklin decides to return for his senior year (he was not directly asked about his intentions in the post-game media session), the expectations will be for San Diego State to return to the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight year.