Updated 2:15 a.m. ET March 25, 2013
PHILADELPHIA Build a state university in the swamplands of south Florida. Move the athletic program to the highest level in college sports and hire a self-made millionaire basketball coach. When his team makes the NCAA tournament, say in Year 2 of its eligibility, beat a tradition-rich opponent like a Georgetown.
That is Florida Gulf Coast University's formula for success.
It took 16 years, and now the school from south Florida is the talk of March Madness. FGCU beat San Diego State, 81-71 Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to become the first No. 15 seed ever to advance to the NCAA tournament's Sweet Sixteen.
CBS Sports.com College Basketball Insider Gary Parrish calls FGCU the biggest thing in all of sports at the moment.
"Fort Myers is kind of rocking and rolling right now," FGCU forward Eddie Murray said Saturday, less than 24 hours after the No. 15 Eagles beat second-seeded Georgetown 78-68. "They're really excited. This is a big thing for the city and I'm glad we could deliver this."
In tournament games Sunday night, Rasheed Sulaimon scored 21 points, Seth Curry had 17 and the No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils beat seventh-seeded Creighton, 66-50, to advance to the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth time in five years. And Shane Larkin hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with a minute left and Miami kept possession on a ball knocked out of bounds that probably should have gone to Illinois, helping the Hurricanes hold on for a 63-59 victory to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
It was one heck of a delivery.
Suddenly, a school with an enrollment of about 12,000, whose first graduating class wore the caps and gowns in 2001, is getting national attention because of a basketball team loaded with players whose best recruiting offers were from conferences like the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley.
The teenagers bought into the pitch from Andy Enfield, a coach made millions starting up a document imaging and contract management company in the health care industry, and who happens to be married to former supermodel Amanda Marcum. They have three children.
Hard to argue with that kind of salesman.
"Yes, we sold this vision," said Enfield, who has also spent time as an assistant coach in the NBA and at Florida State, and has been a shooting consultant for several NBA players. "It wasn't play San Diego State in the (third) round on a Sunday in Philadelphia, it was a vision of success, it was a vision of ... what they could expect in the classroom, off the court and on the basketball court. That's the vision we sell, and I think that's most recruiting. You have to let players know what they should expect from you during their time at school."
Enfield's motto is simple and he's lived up to it.
"I aim for the stars," he said.
Right now he's taking the team and the school with him.
"The biggest thing he's given me has just been confidence," Murray said. "There have been things technique-wise but the biggest thing has definitely been confidence."
The Eagles (25-10) put on a classic performance against Georgetown, putting on an offensive display unlike any seen against the Hoyas this season. Their 21-2 run in the second half stunned and delighted the sellout crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, and their ability to hold off final charge by the Big East team, sold the fans on the legitimacy of the win.
"Early on in the game I kind of thought that more people would be going for the underdog, but they weren't really too vocal in the beginning," Murray said. "As we started getting a couple of dunks here and there, knocking down a couple of 3s and going on a big run against Georgetown, the crowd really started to erupt, become more vocal. The place really started rocking there for a while. Yeah, all these people in Philadelphia have really come to like our team and are rooting for us."
So is a lot of the country, despite the Eagles shattering bracket sheets.
"I've received congratulatory message and advice from other coaches, people in the media, family, friends, people I haven't seen or heard from in 20 years," Enfield said, estimating his phone had 450 text messages -- and counting.