ROUNDBALL DAILY

Championship Week: FGCU, Belmont punch tickets to NCAA Tournament

Florida Gulf Coast punched the first ticket to the NCAA Tournament by knocking off top-seeded Mercer in the finals of the Atlantic Sun tournament. FGCU controlled the game much of the way, and pulled away in the second half for an 88-75 win. Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Sherwood Brown was terrific, finishing with 16 points and 11 boards. It is the first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the Eagles in just their second year of eligibility for the Big Dance. In other news, Northwestern fans are thrilled.

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Sherwood Brown and FGCU reached the NCAAs for the first time ever. (Scott McIntyre/Naples News)

Courtesy of myself, and my own column at SheridanHoops.com, here are a few things you probably didn’t know about Florida Gulf Coast:

1. They’ve only been around since 1997. The school was established in 1991 by then Florida-governor Lawton Chiles, and the first classes weren’t held until ’97. Safe to say there’s no Dead Poets Society at the school. Things that are older than FGCU: Justin Bieber, my grandma’s cat, Jerry Stackhouse’s NBA career, Super Mario World 2, and everyone who goes to school there.

2. They beat Miami earlier this season. In one of the most retroactively shocking results of the season, FGCU outclassed ACC champion and potential No. 1 seed Miami 63-51 on November 13. The Eagles didn’t just squeak past the ‘Canes, either. They went on a 23-2 run and outscored Miami 40-14 in the paint.

Check out the full column here.

Belmont defeated Murray State in overtime on a Kerron Johnson game-winner with 2 seconds to go. It is a shame that both of these teams couldn’t have reached the Big Dance, because both deserve to be there. Murray State could have done some damage with point guard Isaiah Canaan and high-flying forward Ed Daniel. The Racers were 23-0 last season and found their way into the Top 10 in the rankings. We even hit up head coach Steve Prohm for an exclusive interview. But they weren’t quite the same this season, and Canaan

Belmont has been to the Dance the last two years as champions of the Atlantic Sun, but conference realignment forced them to move to the OVC for this season. The Bruins may have even had a chance to reach the NCAAs without winning the championship game, thanks to a 26-6 record. Seniors Kerron Johnson and conference co-Player of the Year (along with Canaan) Ian Clark are legit.

Again via Sheridan Hoops, here are two things you didn’t know about Belmont:

Country singer Brad Paisley attended Belmont. (Photo: Dipty.com)

Country singer Brad Paisley attended Belmont. (Photo: Dipty.com)

1. They’ve got a legitimate chance to make a run. The Ohio Valley Conference champion has won at least one game in the NCAAs in each of the past four seasons. Murray State defeated Colorado State as a sixth-seed last year, and Kenneth Faried and his Morehead State Eagles knocked out Louisville two years ago. Belmont nearly upset Duke as a 15-seed in 2008, losing 71-70.

2. Country music artists Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, and Lee Ann Womack went there.The school is located in Nashville, and has a legendary music program. Womack purportedly pumped the team up before the OVC title game by singing her annoying hit, “I hope you dance.” Unfortunately, you probably know how it goes. “I hope you daaaaaaaance…I hope youuuuuuuu daaance.”

Oh, and head coach Rick Byrd has a ridiculous 663 wins in his coaching career. Check out that full article here.

Harvard also clinched a berth in the NCAAs by defeating Cornell and watching Princeton get blown out by Brown. Tommy Amaker has done a remarkable job of getting the Crimson back to the Big Dance after losing star players Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry to an academic cheating scandal at the beginning of the season.

OTHER NOTES:

Indiana State didn’t do itself any favors by getting blasted by Creighton, 64-43, in the MVC semis in a game that wasn’t even that close. Despite some solid wins this season (including one over Miami in the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Day), it appears that the Sycamores will be on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday.

It’s fitting that Syracuse got absolutely humiliated by Georgetown, 61-39  in the final Big East meeting between the teams. The Orange didn’t deserve to beat either of its rivals (UConn or G’town) after bolting for the ACC and basically destroying the league. It’s not going to make things right, but at least Syracuse will bail with a bad taste in its mouth.

Alabama won on an insane half-court buzzer beater by Trevor Releford that is absolutely worth watching. Check it out below. This is what March Madness is all about:

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