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USC coach Andy Enfield made history when he took a No. 15 seed to the men's Sweet 16. Will Oral Roberts surpass him?

Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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Before his team's matchup with Drake in the first round of the men's NCAA Tournament, Southern California coach Andy Enfield shared with the Trojans a highlight reel of Florida Gulf Coast's memorable postseason run in 2013, when the Eagles dunked their way into tournament history as the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16.

Montages of slams, lobs and alley-oops are cool, so the Trojans enjoyed the show. For Enfield, the video relayed the key to tournament success: offense, defense and tempo working in concert. (Though dunks don't hurt.)

"The point was, to win games in the tournament you have to execute on offense, you have to have pace to your game, and you have to defend at a high level," Enfield said.

USC head coach Andy Enfield gestures from the sideline during the Tojan's first-round game agaist Drake.
USC head coach Andy Enfield gestures from the sideline during the Tojan's first-round game agaist Drake.

The video session provides another link between Enfield and this year's postseason Cinderella, Oral Roberts, which upset Ohio State and Florida to join Florida Gulf Coast as the only No. 15 seeds to advance to the second weekend of tournament play.

Months before becoming this year's tournament darling, ORU coach Paul Mills and his staff began sharing a similar message through a graphic showing the Golden Eagles "what it takes to win in order to win in March," Mills said.

"We talk about — and a lot of coaches do this — but we talk about winning in March way back in November," he said. "I mean, honest to goodness, I've told the guys all year that not only are we going to win the conference tournament but we're going to win multiple games in the NCAA."

Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills, huddles with guard Max Abmas (3), guard Carlos Jurgens (11) and forward DeShang Weaver (14) huddle after their overtime win over Ohio State in the first round.
Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills, huddles with guard Max Abmas (3), guard Carlos Jurgens (11) and forward DeShang Weaver (14) huddle after their overtime win over Ohio State in the first round.

Back in the Sweet 16 for the first time in his eight seasons at USC — the No. 6 seeded Trojans play Sunday against a familiar conference foe, No. 7 Oregon (9:45 p.m. ET, TBS) — Enfield's experience at FGCU provides a road map for Mills and the Golden Eagles, who will enter nearly uncharted territory with Saturday's matchup with No. 3 Arkansas (7:25 p.m. ET, TBS).

"It’s been eight years ago, so when you reminisce a little bit it seems like it was just yesterday," Enfield said. "Anytime March Madness comes around, I do get a lot of text messages or things sent to my email or phone regarding the Florida Gulf Coast run."

The level of scrutiny increases with each upset, even if the attention is overwhelmingly positive; the out-of-nowhere postseason run is one of the annual charms of the NCAA Tournament, and the Golden Eagles follow FGCU, George Mason, Davidson and others as the latest overachiever to draw the national spotlight.

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Florida Gulf Coast's tournament run was even more unexpected. In only the program's second season of full NCAA eligibility, the Eagles won the Atlantic Sun conference tournament to earn an automatic bid and upset No. 2 seed Georgetown in the first round and No. 7 San Diego State in the second before losing to Florida in the Sweet 16.

"They performed at the highest level," said Enfield, who was hired at USC three days after the Eagles' loss and has led the Trojans to three tournament appearances. "I don’t think anything can compare to Florida Gulf Coast run, because we were the first 15 seed to get to that level. It put the university and the basketball program on the national stage."

But ORU remains a heavy underdog: Arkansas is a double-digit favorite heading into the weekend, with history suggesting the Golden Eagles' run won't last past Saturday.

The highest seed to reach the Elite Eight in the modern era of the men's tournament is No. 12 Missouri in 2002. Another eight No. 11 seeds have reached the Elite Eight, most recently Loyola Chicago in 2018. Four double-digit seeds have advanced into the Final Four, three from mid-major conferences, but the lowest seed to win the national championship was No. 8 Villanova in 1985.

"You know, as I told the guys, were not going to let somebody put a number in front of our name and tell us that's our worth or that's our value," Mills said. "We are not capitulating to anybody here."

Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Oral Roberts' Sweet 16 run follows path set by USC coach Andy Enfield