Is Florida Gulf Coast the greatest Cinderella in NCAA Tournament history?
It is hard to measure up to NC State '83 or Villanova '85 (both champs) or George Mason 2006 (which made it to the Final Four).
But I would argue that even if they lose to Florida on Friday night, FGCU is in the conversation for Greatest Cinderella Ever, because of their unique confluence of factors.
Start with the unprecedented: They are the first 15-seed to reach the Sweet 16.
They play a highly telegenic style. They have amazing backstories. The program has no history except for this. They don't come from a major (or even mid-major) conference. They are a GIF industry unto themselves.
And there is no reason to believe that it will stop now.
If you asked me heading into the Tournament if there was a team that I thought would beat Florida, I'd say no -- after all, it's why I picked Florida to win it all.
But that didn't account for the "black swan" scenario -- the entirely unforeseen competitor that is a mix of moxie, motivation, method and manpower.
At this point, I am extremely nervous that Florida will lose to FGCU -- even with five days for Billy Donovan to prepare, even with the idea of "regression to the mean," even with Florida's history of smashing Cinderella's slipper (they beat George Mason in the Final Four in '06).
All I know is that what FGCU is doing is unprecedented (way beyond the 15-seed stuff), and that alone qualifies them for NCAA tournament immortality.
Check out the USATODAY.com column here.