It’s Anchors Aweigh Again as Navy Sinks Army

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Navy's Keenan Reynolds set a new record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Navy’s Keenan Reynolds set a new record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—You have to figure at some point that Army is going to beat Navy and reverse a losing streak that is in double digits.

Unfortunately for the Black Knights, the 2013 edition of the Army-Navy game was just like the last 11 games before this one—a win for the Midshipmen.

Led by quarterback Keenan Reynolds, Navy came away with a 34-7 win over Army on a cold, snowy day at Lincoln Financial Field in the 114th matchup of the nation’s service academies. The Black Knights ended their season at 3-9 while the bowl-bound Midshipmen improved to 8-4 and won the Commander-in-Chief Trophy for their wins over Army and Air Force.

In a game that started with snow and ended in freezing rain, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said he liked how his team played well on a day when conditions weren’t so perfect.

“The only thing that reminded me of Hawaii was this lei (around his neck), it definitely wasn’t Hawaii weather,” Niumatalolo said. “I thought our kids played well. We stayed outdoors during our time. We tried to get used to the elements. It was a tough situation out there, but I was just very pleased with all of players. We shut down a very good Army offense.”

Navy, a team headed to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30, was simply too much for a game, but overmatched Army squad.  For one thing, they couldn’t stop Reynolds, who gained 136 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns.  Navy rolled up 343 yards rushing yards in Arctic-like conditions.

“It was fun, kind of storybook Army-Navy game, cold, snowing, grind it out kind of game,” Reynolds said.            “You couldn’t ask for too much better.”

In addition to leading his team to a win over archrival Army, Reynolds set the NCAA record for the most rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback (29). He also set a new school record for the most points scored in a season.

“Coming into the game I wasn’t too concerned about the record,” Reynolds said. “If I broke it, I broke it. If not, oh well. My main concern was trying to get the “W.” If that involved getting zero touchdowns and everybody else running and having a field day then I was cool with that.”

Given Reynolds success this season, Niumatalolo said his quarterback deserved to be in New York at the Downtown Athletic Club for the Heisman Trophy announcement. He said Reynolds is just as good as 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of Florida State.

“I think he deserves to be there,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s as good a quarterback that I’ve been around. Not to take anything from the guys who are there, but I think Keenan had a pretty good year, too.”

Navy jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime on a 39-yard touchdown run by fullback Noah Copeland and a 47-yard run by Reynolds in the second quarter. The Midshipmen opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 20-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Nick Sloan.

Army, which ended their season with five straight losses, couldn’t get out of the way of themselves in the first half and turned the ball over three times-two fumbles (one lost) and an interception. When they moved the ball into Navy territory in the first half, the Black Knights turned the ball with a fumble or they were stopped on downs.

“The first thing you have to do in a game like this play without errors, delays and turnovers,” said Army head coach Rich Ellerson. “If you’re going to have a chance against a team like Navy, you have to be on the other side of the ledger when it comes to turnovers.”

Even though Army moved the ball into Navy territory at times during the first half, the Midshipmen’s defense made sure they stayed away from the red zone. They held an Army squad that averaged 323 yards per game to 157 yards.

“I think that epitomizes our defense,” said senior inside linebacker Cody Peterson. “We keep fighting, we keep plugging away and we find a way to make a play and not let them get in the end zone. They might get past the 50, but we’ll bow up and we’ll make sure they don’t get any points on the board.”

There was some hope for Army in the third quarter when junior quarterback Angel Santiago scored on a four-yard late in the third quarter to cut the Navy lead to 17-7.

But that’s as close as Army would get as Navy went on to score the game’s final 17 points. Meanwhile, Ellerson said his team played valiantly despite the losing for the 12th straight time to Navy.

“I love that football team. That is a great team and a great senior class,” Ellerson said. “I want desperately for them to have a better feeling today. That’s what is killing me.”

More Opportunities: WABA Seeks to Give More Women A Chance to Play Pro Basketball

The WABA hopes to increase opportunities for women to play professional basketball.

The WABA hopes to be a successful compliment to the WNBA.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

When Sonya Nichols was a basketball player at James Madison in the mid-1990s, she struggled with knee injuries and didn’t have much of a chance to showcase her skills enough to get an opportunity to play professional basketball.

Nichols didn’t get any calls from the European professional leagues, the newly formed WNBA or the former American Basketball League. Not having a venue to showcase her talents was something that still sticks with her.

“After my collegiate career when my knees were ready to go, I didn’t have a platform to play,” Nichols said. “I took that personally. I knew that one day that I would like to be a part of helping women who are displaced and not able to go overseas or not interested in going overseas, for that matter to be in some type of league that’s available for us just to showcase and demonstrate the talent we have because we didn’t’ make it to that next level for one reason or another.”

As the chief executive officer of the newly formed Women’s American Basketball Association, Nichols wants to give women basketball players that opportunity to play at the professional level.   The league; which is a part of the Indianapolis-based American Basketball Association, is scheduled to begin play in April, 2014.

WABA chief operations officer  and Philadelphia sports agent Sporty Smith will be the owner of the WABA’s Philadelphia Philly Love. The league hopes to have 24 teams in place by the time play begins next April, he said.

Former WNBAers, collegiate players, players who have spent time in the European leagues and coaches from those ranks will make up the WABA, Smith said.

But what makes this league different is that it will also offer local stars, women who played for local colleges and high schools that might have name recognition in the cities in which the league has teams, the chance to show they’ve still got it, Smith said.

“The difference between us and the WNBA is that a lot of the players that would be on those teams would be local and so they’ll have their families readily available to watch them play,” Smith said.

There are currently nine teams in the league, according to the WABA’s website. These teams are:  The New Jersey Express, which will play out of Newark, N.J.; The New England Stormers, which will play out of Boston; The Hampton Roads Lightning (Norfolk, Va.); and the Philadelphia Love. Once the league is fully formed these teams will make up the Northeast Division.

The Midwest Division is comprised of only one team so far, the Chicago Lady Steam. The South Division will be made up of the Lake City Kingdom Riderettes (Lake Charles, La.); The Lady Cadets of Fayetteville, NC; The Lady Roadrunners of Columbus, Ga.; and the McAllen Queens of McAllen, Tex.

Going into markets big and small is an important part of the new league’s strategy for growth.

“That’s an opportunity for us,” Sonya Nichols said. “That’s pretty much the standard model of the ABA since it’s inception. We’re going take a page from their book and really tap in those markets. People in those towns want to come out and support a professional team because they don’t have them.”

While giving women’s basketball players another venue to play professional basketball sounds like a good idea, the WABA will have to convince an audience in an over saturated sports market that their league will be as good as the WNBA, which has its own struggles in its 17 years of existence.

With the addition of new WNBA players like Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, Skyler Diggins who plays for the Tulsa Shock and of course, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who dominated women’s college basketball with her size and ability to dunk, interest in the WNBA is actually growing.

Attendance, WNBA merchandise and TV ratings on ESPN 2 have gone up this year thanks to Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins.  In the season-opener featuring all three players, ESPN 2 had it highest regular-season ratings in nine years.

Nichols said the recent success of the WNBA and the popularity of women’s college basketball bode well for her upstart league.

“People are very interested in women’s sports now, “ Nichols said. “Those three players of that caliber have really sparked an interest.  …We definitely feel that we’ll be able to stay in it and we will sustain just as the WNBA has.”

One of the things that could help the WABA is having a television deal to broadcast their games. To that end, Nichols said that she has worked out a deal to televise their games with the New York-based Urban Broadcasting Company, which is scheduled to launch in the fall and is supposed to reach 40 million homes on Comcast, Time Warner and Dish Network.

Nichols said the new league is also in negotiations with another network, but will not announce anything until a deal is done.

Meanwhile, Nichols and Smith are also trying to find arenas to play their games. If they’re going not to going to play in places like the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia or New York’s Madison Square Garden, collegiate arenas will be the venue of choice.

For his team, Smith has found a practice facility in Northeast Philadelphia.  He said he is negotiating with local colleges for a regular place to play their games.

As for player salaries, the WABA will not be doling out millions right away. Smith said that will happen as the league grows and continues to get sponsorship. The league minimum for players will be $50 per game.

Both Nichols and Smith said the main thrust of their local marketing strategy is to be involved in community service efforts by partnering with local charities and also having community organizations such as children’s dance groups perform at halftime.

“Our service projects will garner a lot of attention,” Nichols said. “Some of the community service initiatives that we have include tutoring, women’s shelters and other projects that we’re working on now.”

In the spirit of the old men’s ABA from the 1970s, Nichols said there will be some interesting wrinkles such as the red, white and blue basketball and points to award outstanding defense and hustle as a way of making the game fun for fans.

For example, if a team makes a steal near their own basket, a team will get two points for the steal and two or three additional points if they hit a two-point bucket or a three-pointer.

“If you play good basketball, they’ll keep coming back,” Nichols said.

ABA CEO Joe Newman the thing he likes about the new league is that it opens a door of opportunities for people who want to be employed in the sport.

“It’s an opportunity to do what they’ve dreamed about in their careers and that is to play at the professional level,” Newman said. “It’s also off the court to develop the potential middle managers and marketing people, press media people and community people, and radio and TV people who will pursue what they studied in college… It’s a place to achieve your dreams.”

It’s Time For Men to Respect and Support Women’s Basketball

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Baylor's Britany Griner will be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft and could be the league's most compelling figure.

Baylor’s Britany Griner will be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft and could be the league’s most compelling figure.

When the University of Maryland Lady Terrapins defeated the Duke Lady Blue Devils in an overtime thriller for the NCAA’s women’s national basketball title in 2006, it was one of the greatest games of all time, not just in women’s hoops, but in the history of college basketball.

Freshman point guard Kristi Toliver’s miracle three-pointer over Duke’s 6-foot-7 forward Alison Bales in the final seconds to send the game to overtime enabled the Terrapins to come back from a 13-point deficit at halftime.  Freshman Marissa Coleman would sink a pair of free-throws in overtime to pull off an improbable upset.

A day after the game, I was in the Sixers press dining room having dinner with some of the beat writers when I brought up what a great game that Maryland-Duke national championship game was last night.

“You actually watch women’s basketball,” one of the guys said.

I don’t know why I was surprised by the response. I’ve been a sports writer for a while so I shouldn’t have been.

I mean, hey, in a mostly white, mostly male sports journalism industry, why should women’s basketball get any notice? My guess is that the only reason that women’s tennis gets any notice is that it’s played in really, really short skirts.

But while sexism rears its ugly head most in the world of sports journalism, it’s not the only place it hangs out. In a country where great strides have been made in the area of gender equality,we still have quite a way to go.

Recently, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made headlines when he sent a Twitter message to 6-foot-8 Baylor All-American Brittney Griner offering a tryout with his team.

It was widely reported in the sports media that it was nothing more than a publicity stunt by Cuban, who is our modern-day Bill Veeck for his penchant for making himself the story.

Of course, you heard all the reasons why Griner couldn’t play with the fellas in the NBA. The athleticism, the speed, the size would be too much for the 6-foot-8 Griner. I can accept that because Griner is a back to the basket player in the low post and not just because she’s a woman.

Besides, 6-foot-8 forwards are a dime a dozen in the NBA and most of them are swing guards or small forwards. If Griner was a good ball-handler and had that kind of game, I might be inclined to say that she may have shot at possibly making a team.

But all that said, I agree with ESPN columnist Jemele Hill who says that she’d like to see Griner make an impact on the WNBA and become one of the best players in the women’s game while also boosting the profile of a league that’s trying to make a name for itself.

Recently, the WNBA and ESPN announced a huge television deal that runs through 2022. The league has revamped its logo and wants to market current college stars like Griner and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne as the future faces of the league.

Like Hill and her ESPN colleague Kate Fagan, I believe that the whole of idea Griner trying to play in the NBA is another way of marginalizing women as athletes.

Neither Griner nor the current stars of the WNBA like Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, or Candace Parker need men to validate them as great basketball players. But they are deserving of their respect.

As much as the WNBA and ESPN will do to market their sport, I think the real issue that there is still a huge resistance among men in sports media and society in general to take women’s sports seriously.

The only time you hear any serious discussion of women’s sports on sports talk radio is to hear the loud mouths justify why they don’t watch or to say something disparaging about one of the athletes.

That was the case in 2007 when Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes.”

What bothered me about that situation was that C. Vivian Stringer’s Scarlet Knight squad had completed a remarkable run through the NCAA Tournament and reached the national championship game when nobody expected them to be there.

But it’s not just media coverage. Women’s college basketball teams, even in some of the most successful programs, don’t draw the kind of crowds that their male counterparts do. Is it marketing on the part of the university? Or is it because the players don’t have that look that appeals to our male sexual fantasies like an Anna Kournikova?

To me, it’s not market forces or anything couched in some pseudo scientific survey done by a Harvard research team, it’s just that we men still can’t get past our sexism to appreciate the athleticism of female athletes. After all, sports are supposed to be the domain of men.

While I respect ESPN’s efforts for broadcasting the WNBA and women’s college basketball, we will not have true gender equity in sports until we can stand around the nation’s water coolers and rave about Brittney Griner’s exploits on the court in the same way we do LeBron James’s.

Dunk City: Florida Gulf Coast Runs and Guns its Way to the Sweet 16

Florida Gulf Coast guard Bernard Thompson is about unleash a vicious dunk during a 17-0 run in the Eagles win over San Diego State in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo by Webster Riddick

Florida Gulf Coast guard Bernard Thompson is about unleash a vicious dunk during a 17-0 run in the Eagles win over San Diego State in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo by Webster Riddick

High-Flying Eagles Become the First No. 15  Seed to Advance to the Regional Semifinals

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—If you actually had Florida Gulf Coast University advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, you are either a psychic, some lucky little old lady who just likes the color of their uniforms or you’re just a damned liar.

With the Wells Fargo Center crowd behind them, Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles continued their improbable run through the 2013 NCAA Tournament by knocking off San Diego State Aztecs 81-71 or a trip to the South Region Semifinals in Arlington, Texas.

“We’re going to the Sweet 16,” said a smiling FGCU head coach Andy Enfield. “I haven’t cried yet. I might cry tomorrow. But it’s just a great feeling, so proud of these players, what we’ve been through for the last two years only the second year of eligibility. It really speaks volumes.”

After their stunning upset of Georgetown on Friday night, which included an Eagles chant normally reserved for the city’s football team, Florida Gulf Coast became “America’s Team” with another win over a higher-seeded team.

“It’s indescribable, we’re all on such a high right now,” Eagles sophomore point guard Brett Comer. “We feel like we can beat anybody the way we’re playing right now. It seemed like a home game for us. The whole arena was behind us.”

The Eagles (26-10) will take on No. 3 seed and in-state rival Florida for a chance to go to the Elite Eight.  Florida Gulf Coast University, based in Fort Myers, Fla., is the first No. 15 seed since tournament seeding began back in 1979 to earn a trip to the regional semifinals.

“It’s real big, it’s good for our program, our school, it’s good for the whole city of Fort Myers,” said sophomore guard Bernard Thompson, who scored a game-high 23 points. “We’re on the map now. It was an emotional win for the coaches as well as their players. For a 15th seed to go the Sweet 16, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

San Diego State, champions of the Mountain West Conference, saw its season end at 23-11.

If you’ve learned anything from this weekend about FGCU, you now know that this team is for real and then some.  Leading 54-52 with 11: 30 left in the game, The Eagles broke open a close game with a 17-0 scoring spurt with a dazzling transition game with dunks and easy layups that ran the Aztecs out of the gym and into the off-season.

“We turned up our intensity,” said Comer, who finished the game 10 points and 14 assists. “We want to push the ball down the court and we want to attack, attack, and that’s what coach wants us to do and we do a great job of doing that, so we’re going to be in attack mode for the entire game.”

San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said the Eagles run took them out of their rhythm on both sides of the floor.

“You miss two or three shots in a row and give them two or three straight baskets,” Fisher said. “The whole way you approach it, if you’re not careful, can cause you to be not as thoughtful in how you play. Give them angles to drive, gamble a little bit and every time we did that, they took advantage.”

The Eagles second half scoring-spurt reminded veteran reporters of Houston’s 16-0 run against Louisville in the 1983 Final Four because of all the easy dunks and layups that Florida Gulf Coast used to put the Aztecs away.

Granted, the kids from Florida Gulf Coast University may not know anything about Clyde Drexler and Phi Slamma Jamma, but they have their own sense of swag and have even come up with their own nickname.

“Dunk City is coming to Arlington, so everybody be ready,” Thompson said at the end of the postgame press conference.  “It’s FGCU basketball if you don’t know, now you know,”

Thompson and teammate Sherwood Brown, who scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds, both said when Florida Gulf Coast has their transition game going at home; they like to get the crowd involved. That was something that they did throughout the weekend.

“We’re all about having fun and also playing really hard,” Brown said. “We like to get the crowd involved and you saw that over the course of the game. The whole crowd got behind us even if they’re not from Fort Myers or as we like to say, “Dunk City.”

2013 NCAA Tournament: Exposing the Myth of Power Conferences


By Chris Murray

Florida Gulf Coast University men's basketball team, in its second year of NCAA Tournament eligibility pulls off the biggest upset of the tourney by beating No. 2 seed Georgetown. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team, in its second year of NCAA Tournament eligibility pulls off the biggest upset of the tourney by beating No. 2 seed Georgetown. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—In the more than 24 hours since little Florida Gulf Coast University pulled off the biggest upset of the 2013 NCAA Tournament by knocking off No.2-seed Georgetown,  I hope sports fans will have learned one thing from these first few days of the NCAA Tournament.

All the stuff that your ESPN pundits say about players and teams from all the so-called power conferences being better than the kids from the mid-majors in college basketball in its current form is just a bunch of malarkey.

I guess people weren’t convinced by this when George Mason went to the Final Four in 2006 or when both Virginia Commonwealth and Butler went to the Final Four in 2010. Of course, Lehigh upending Duke in the second round of last year’s tournament was just a lucky thing.

So far in this year’s tournament in addition to Florida Gulf Coast University’s stunning win over No. 2 seed Georgetown, No. 14 seed Harvard sent No. 3 New Mexico on that right turn back to Albuquerque.  Another bracket buster was LaSalle sending Kansas State home early. How many times will your brackets be thrown into the waste paper basket or deleted from your computer because you buy into the same old myths?

“I would say once you get out on that open floor, anything can happen,” said Florida Gulf Coast senior guard Sherwood Brown, who scored 24 points in the win over Georgetown. “Everyone puts their shoes on the same way as everyone else, everyone breathes the same air. If you go out there and work hard, anything can happen.”

During this first weekend of the NCAA Tournament at the Wells Fargo Center, I spoke to coaches and players from programs big and small and they told me in no uncertain terms that those things that fans and the media talk about regarding power conferences versus small conferences is just not true.

“You know in basketball, we, as basketball coaches, don’t look at any conference as a mid-major because we have 300 schools that are all Division I,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “So how we look at things and how it is reported isn’t always the way that it is.

“I’m sure when John (Thompson III) was preparing for Florida Gulf Coast, he wasn’t saying ‘well, they’re from a bad conference and we should win.’ They were saying, this kid is good and could start for us, this kid can play …So I think basketball people respect basketball people. I know we do.”

I think you also have to take into consideration that in the current landscape of basketball, you have the summer leagues, AAU and various basketball camps where the players have all played against each other and aren’t fazed by one another.

“This basketball thing that we’ve been going through since the seventh grade is basically a network,” said San Diego State junior swing guard Jamaal Franklin. “Like me and my teammate Jeremy Castleberry, a walk-on on this team, me and him have been playing together on the same AAU team since the seventh grade. You see each other from seventh grade all the way up to college.”

A good example of that was Florida Gulf Coast’s win over Georgetown. Senior Forward Eddie Murray, who had a couple spectacular put back dunks in the win over the Hoyas, said his teammates played against some of the Georgetown players in AAU.

“They knew a lot about them and played well against them before and they knew they would play well against them,” Murray said. “It’s the same thing with Miami and Duke, we played against some of those players in AAU. It gives you confidence that you can play with them and they’re not that much better than us.”

Another reason that the smaller schools are hanging with the big schools is that the superstars of the major programs play for one or two years before jumping to the NBA.

Meanwhile, the players at the mid-majors are staying for the full four years and getting the benefit of refining their games and gelling with their teammates. And so when you make your brackets for next year take those things into consideration.

“There’s a lot of talent in the game of basketball right now,” said Duke forward Ryan Kelly. “On top of that with guys leaving early and staying for a year or two and that changes the landscape a little bit. There’s a lot of great coaches. All those things contributes to the parity, but once you get into the tournament, anything can happen.”

Who are These Guys? 15th Seed Florida Gulf Coast Shocks No. 2 Georgetown in NCAA Second Round

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Florida Gulf Coast senior forward slams home a putback in the Eagles upset of No. 2 seed Georgetown. Photo by Webster Riddick

Florida Gulf Coast senior forward slams home a put back in the Eagles upset of No. 2 seed Georgetown at the Wells Fargo Center. Photo by Webster Riddick

PHILADELPHIA—If you’ve been wondering who the heck is Florida Gulf Coast, the Georgetown Hoyas can tell you a whole lot about them as they make their way back down I-95 toward the Capital Beltway.

“If you don’t know us by now, I don’t know what’s wrong with y’all,” said Florida Gulf sophomore guard Bernard Thompson, who scored 23 points.

In what is by far the biggest upset of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast using an uptempo brand of offense eliminated the No. 2 seeded Georgetown Hoyas with a thrilling 78-68 win in front of a crowd at the Wells Fargo Center who haven’t cheered quite as loud for a team bearing the name “Eagles” in quite some time.

For the school, whose address is Fort Myers, Fla., but actually borders Naples, it was the biggest win in the history of the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball program.

“This is the NCAA Tournament (second) round game we’re the 15 seed, nobody picked us a win, it meant a lot,” said sophomore point guard Brett Comer.

With the score tied at 31-31 with 17:27 left in the second half, Florida Gulf Coast turned the game up a notch and went a 21-2 scoring spurt that gave them a 19-point lead. The Eagles proved to be too quick for what turned out to be a slower Georgetown squad.

“They got out in transition and that started their run,” said Hoyas sophomore forward Otto Porter, who finished the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds. “They started knocking shots. It’s hard when a team is knocking down shots like that.”

Florida Gulf Coast charged out front by taking advantage of missed shots and scoring on the fast-break. Comer got his teammates involved in a lightning fast offensive attack that included a crowd-pleasing oop to junior forward Chase Fieler.

“I saw Otto Porter trailing me, I knew he was going to try and contest my shot, I saw Fieler out the corner of my eye,” said Comer, who finished the game with 12 points and 10 assists.

After the Eagles took a two-point lead into the locker room, head coach Andy Enfield told his team to push up the tempo and play their style of basketball.

“Throw some ally-oops, kick the ball out to the three and whether it makes or misses, we wanted to push the ball in transition and play our style in the second half,” Enfield said. “And I think our guys did a tremendous job early on and we went on a run.”

With a 19-point lead with 12:30, the Eagles had to withstand several Georgetown runs. The Hoyas actually cut the Florida Gulf Coast margin to four with 53 seconds left, but would come no closer. The Eagles hit their free throws to put the game away.

“We showed a lot of maturity in the fact that we were able to then go on a second run and extend our lead. I thought that was the key to the game,” Enfield said.

Meanwhile, Georgetown just could not find a rhythm on offense. They only scored one basket in the last 10 minutes of the first half.  When Florida Gulf Coast went on their scoring spurt, the Hoyas kept rushing their shots and taking ill-advised threes.

“In looking back in succession we did take too many threes, too many long shots instead of going to the basket,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “I think we became discombobulated at the defensive end more than the offensive end to tell the truth.”

For the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball program their visit to Philadelphia and their win over Georgetown has definitely put them on the map.

“It’s definitely a coming out party,” Fieler said. “A lot of people didn’t know about us before we got here. The entire stadium was on our side and we got a lot of fans. It was a coming out party for our team and our program. A lot of people thought we were a junior college, so it good that we won a game like this, but we can’t be satisfied.”

Speaking of NCAA Tournament coming out parties and historical footnotes,  it was an upstart Georgetown program, under then head coach John Thompson II, that had its own coming out party in Philadelphia back in 1980 when the Hoyas beat a favored No.2 seeded Maryland squad in the semifinals of the East Regionals played at the old Spectrum about 100 yards away from the Wells Fargo Center.

2013 NCAA Tournament: Mid-Majors Give Under Recruited Players A Chance to Grow and Shine

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Creighton's 6-8 forward Doug McDermott averages 23 points per game coming into Friday's Second Round NCAA Tournament matchup against Cincinnati.

Creighton’s 6-8 forward Doug McDermott averages 23 points per game coming into Friday’s Second Round NCAA Tournament matchup against Cincinnati.

PHILADELPHIA—If you’re basketball playing son has ambitions of being an NBA lottery pick or being recruited by the big name brand schools like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, or any of the schools from the big conferences and he is not even on their radar, he shouldn’t despair.

If you have been watching the NCAA Tournament the last few years, not being recruited by the big-time programs is definitely not the end of the world. Your kid can be a star at a mid-major that school ends up beating one of those schools in the NCAA Tournament.

Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said the success of the mid-majors over the last few years means that there is true parity in college basketball.

“I think as fans, writers and reporters we’ve been forced to categorize teams…this is a power six,  this is a high major, this is a mid-major,” Thompson III said.  “And so just because of how we’ve always done things, we want to assume that a team from this conference is not as good, as talented, as tough as a team from that conference and that’s just not the case anymore.”

The successful tournament runs of Virginia Commonwealth (2010 Final Four), Butler (2010 Final Four) and George Mason (2006 Final Four) has athletes from those schools believing  they are just as good as the players from the big schools.

“Those teams set the bar set the bar for us mid-majors, especially this year in college basketball where anything can happen,” said Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott, whose team will play 10th –seeded Cincinnati in Friday’s second-rround NCAA Tournament game at the Wells Fargo Center.  “Teams we played in the Missouri Valley Conference were really well-coached.”

Oddly enough, Creighton is leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the new edition of the Big East Conference and they will cease being a mid-major school.

Still, some of the tournament’s most compelling moments have occur when players playing for a mid-major school become superstars for those teams. Often times, mid-major star is a player who was not heavily recruited by the schools from the BCS conferences.

“It’s an opportunity to show that maybe we did get missed or something like that,” said Florida Gulf Coast guard Eddie Murray before his team’s second-round match up against No. 2-seed Georgetown. “It’s an opportunity to show what we can do and see what happens.”

A case in point is Stephen Curry, who is now an NBA star with the Golden State Warriors.  Even as the son of former NBA star Dell Curry, Stephen was not highly recruited at all. The only visit to a major conference school for Stephen was when Dell arranged a visit to his alma mater at Virginia Tech.

In 2006, Curry accepted a scholarship to Davidson, a team that had not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1969.

As a sophomore, he led Davidson on an incredible run through the NCAA Tournament knocking off teams like No. 2 seed Georgetown en route to leading his team to the Elite Eight. That season he was fifth in the nation in scoring and led the Southern Conference in that category as well.

It helps that schools like Florida Gulf Coast, champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, also play a tough non-conference schedule. The Eagles biggest win of the non-conference schedule was a win over ACC champion Miami, the no. 2 seed in the East Region.

“That definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” said Florida Gulf Coast guard Sherwood Brown. “It makes us realize that even though they may by bigger than us, if you just play hard and play good defense, no matter what you can win.”

Perhaps the main draw that the mid-majors have is that the coaches get to work with the players for four years to develop their skills and they get to gel with their teams. That’s also a reason why those mid-level programs end up beating the bigger schools in the tournament because good players at the major programs end up jumping to the pros after a year or two.

“We have a very specific player development program that we’ve done and that’s why our players have made jumps,” said Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield. “Players want to get better. They want to be big-time college players and a lot them want to make money when they get out.”