From a simple overview, the glorious first weekend of the March Madness wasn't that stunning. Only one No. 1 seed fell. Unfortunately, it was the one featuring two of the highest-profile Canadians in the tourney -- Gonzaga. Given how this NCAA men's basketball season had played out, it wouldn't have been crazy to expect more.
The magic we did get, however? A 16-year-old university with a beach, coached by a guy who made millions investing in a health tech company and married to a former Maxim cover model.
Yes, Florida Gulf Coast University is the textbook definition of a Cinderella, a story so out there it completely overshadows the other surprises -- La Salle University and its "Southwest Philly Floater," and Wichita State, a rather tame ninth-seeded Cinderella, but one of some interest to Canadians given that Nick Wiggins of Thornhill, Ont., the older brother of high school phenom Andrew Wiggins suits up for the Shockers.
The NCAA coaching ladder -- something we witness every year, like now as names such as VCU's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens are bandied about for higher profile openings at UCLA and Minnesota -- has probably created another rung for another up-and-comer, Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield.
Enfield's "Dunk City" offence, a crazy up-tempo system that uses a six-seconds-or-less philosophy, is flowing loose, his players balling without pressure and having fun. This is what March Madness is about and you wish what more basketball was about -- playing fast in transition and everyone involved offensively, thanks to great passing.
How entertaining are they?
"Their style of play is very similar to ours," Harlem Globetrotters guard Tay (Firefly) Fisher told USA Today this week.
Yet their coach is the most interesting part of the story.
Enfield, 43, has only been on the job for two seasons. After playing collegiately at academic bastion Johns Hopkins, he worked as a shooting coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. However, in 2000, he walked away from basketball to focus on developing a business opportunity that supplied technology to the health services industry. The company, TractManager, grew to a value of $100 million US before he sold his share.
"I still have to work," Enfield tried to make clear to ESPN this week.
After returning to hoops as an assistant with Florida State, Enfield took the head job at upstart Florida Gulf Coast, a university younger than all of its students. Oh, and he's married to former model Amanda Marcum. You can't make this stuff up.
That said, midnight always tolls for Cinderella.
FGCU is in very tough against the powerhouse school of their state, the Florida Gators, a sexy Final Four pick from the beginning with the horses FGCU doesn't. The Gators more than have the ability to slow Gulf Coast down and dominate with their halfcourt game. Having said that, Georgetown was a good defensive team as well and Gulf Coast beat them.
With Gonzaga (Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Pangos) and UNLV (Anthony Bennett, Khem Birch) out, Canadian content has taken a hit, but northern lights still shine with Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Marquette's Junior Cadougan.
Stauskas, from Mississauga, Ont., is due for a better shooting performance, having been held to eight points in each of Michigan's two wins so far. He's only 1 of 8 from three-point range in the tourney, way off his 43 per cent average this season. The Wolverines are stacked with talent, led by all-world point guard Trey Burke, but they face a stiff test Friday from Kansas, which has overcome sub-par play from Ben McLemore with solid performances from Jeff Withey and Travis Releford.
Toronto's Cadougan and his Marquette squad go up against Miami on Thursday and he and his backcourt mates will be looking to slow down Shane Larkin. It's a classic 2 versus 3 matchup in the East bracket.
And on a personal note, feel free to cheer for Syracuse against No. 1 Indiana on Thursday. Not only do the Orange have Noel Jones of Halifax on the roster, but blue-chip point guard Tyler Ennis of Toronto is heading to the Carrier Dome next season when 'Cuse debuts in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And Syracuse still owes Indiana from Keith Smart's game-winning shot in the 1987 title game.
Andrew Wiggins was selected Tuesday for the World Select Team at the annual Nike Hoop Summit game on April 20 in Portland, Ore. Fellow Canadian Trey Lyles of Saskatoon, who attends high school in Indianapolis, was named as well, but withdrew due to a knee injury. The World Team will once again be coached by Canadian Roy Rana, the bench boss at Ryerson University who also heads the national junior team.
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