This year’s Cinderella story looks a little familiar.
After bowing out of the NCAA tournament and media spotlight, glimmers of Florida Gulf Coast remain in the Big Dance.
Prior to FGCU’s Sweet Sixteen run in 2013, only six other No. 15 seeds have shocked No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, including both No. 15 seeds Norfolk taking down No. 2 Missouri and Lehigh shocking No. 2 Duke in 2012. No team has done it since FGCU.
Friday night, No. 15 seeded Middle Tennessee State left all brackets busted but one, with a 90-81 shocker over No. 2 Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Which have many asking, is this the new FGCU?
In 2013, FGCU went on a historic run to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 15 seed, taking down No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State along the way. FGCU’s 78-68 win over Georgetown marked the seventh time a No. 15 seed took down a No. 2 seed.
Similar to FGCU, Middle Tennessee knocked off a top-seeded Michigan State team – all while winning the hearts of college basketball fans, shattering brackets in the NCAA Tournament and dawning blue uniforms similar to FGCU. Even forward Darnell Harris’ dreads resembles the unforgettable hairstyle of 2013 FGCU’s Sherwood Brown.
On the road to the NCAA this season, Middle Tennessee won the Conference USA Championship as a No. 2 seed, while FGCU accomplished the same thing in the Atlantic Sun in 2013. MTSU eliminated No. 5 Old Dominion, 55-53, while FGCU knocked off top-seeded Mercer, 88-75.
However, looking at Middle Tennessee’s regular season schedule in comparison to the 2013 regular season, FGCU took on more teams that were in the NCAA Tournament than MTSU.
Middle Tennessee faced this tournament’s No. 10-seeded VCU and No. 12 seeded South Dakota State. In 2013, FGCU faced No. 2-seeded Duke, No. 2-seeded Miami, No. 5-seeded VCU and No. 10-seeded Iowa State. FGCU beat Miami, 63-51.
Middle Tennessee joins FGCU, Norfolk State (2012), Lehigh (2012), Hampton (2001), Coppin State (1997) and Santa Carla (1993) who all knocked off No. 2 seeds as No. 15 seeds.
This season is also MTSU’s seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament, making its furthest run in 1975 and 1977 into the regional semifinal.
MTSU reminded me of watching Florida Gulf Coast…not in style but the fun they had playing together and that's what makes the tourney fun!
— Jace Thompson (@JaceThompson) March 18, 2016
The Blue Raiders hope to become the second No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen when they take on No. 10 Syracuse at 5:10 p.m. on Sunday in the round of 32 in St. Louis, Missouri.