If I had to guess, dancing through the nation’s most competitive college basketball tournament in glass slippers isn’t exactly easy. That’s cool with Florida Gulf Coast University, though. They didn’t come here to tap dance. They showed up to stomp on whoever’s brave enough to face them. Number 15 seed and glass slippers be damned.

Every year come March Madness there’s at least one Cinderella story the nation can hang its hat on. The ’98 Valparaiso Crusaders come to mind. As do the Rams of VCU and the Butler Bulldogs of 2011. Improbable runs by low ranked teams is what makes this tournament great.

But no team I can remember has done it with as much swagger as the Eagles of FGCU. So far, they’ve upset No. 2 Georgetown in their first game — by 10 points, mind you — and are now coming off another 10-point rout of No. 7 San Diego State, putting a No. 15 seed in the Sweet 16 for the first time in tournament history.

But here’s the thing: They’re not draining three-pointers wide-eyed or throwing down monster dunks and staring at their hands in awe, as if surprised at the greatness springing forth from their digits. They don’t seem surprised by any of this, really.

They’re this year’s most exciting team to watch not just because they’re winning (and on paper, they shouldn’t be) — they’re winning big with a confidence that borders on cockiness.

Last night, after burying his chest into a sprawling San Diego defender and netting an effortless turnaround bank shot from a tough angle, star senior FGCU guard Sherwood Brown strutted back on defense with his tongue sticking out and dreadlocks shaking the whole way. It was a deliberate affront to the team that, by all accounts, should have been rolling over these relative unknowns from Fort Myers. And it was awesome.

Before the team’s first game against Georgetown, fans were allowed a glimpse inside the FGCU locker room as Brown stood in front of his seated teammates. “We earned the right to be here. Nobody gave it to us,” he told them softly, almost humbly. “So we gotta go out there and take it. Feel me?”

They felt him, and soon, the thousands seated in that stadium and the millions watching along with them felt what he meant, too. Brown and his teammates put on a show, running the floor nonstop and dunking with such ferocity the rafters shook.

After the game, Brown and head coach Andy Enfield chatted with Charles Barkley and crew, telling them, specifically, where Florida Gulf Coast University is at, and, almost unbelievably, that those dunks we saw in game one were just a sampling of what this team is capable of — a declaration they proved against San Diego.

Now, the No. 15 ranked FGCU Eagles advance to the Sweet 16 to face in-state foe Florida, the No. 3 seed in the South.

I’ve got Florida winning the whole tournament. And I can’t wait to watch FGCU break another pair of glass Jordans stepping all over them.


Image via LA Times