Florida Gulf Coast popular on social media

Courtesy of Hootsuite

America loves an underdog, and so do college basketball fans who use Facebook and Twitter. Not surprisingly, Florida Gulf Coast University was the most mentioned team on both social media sites during the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, according to data provided by Facebook and HootSuite.

FCGU was followed in mentions on Facebook by Wichita State, Ohio State, Indiana and Marquette.

The Eagles crushed the competition when it came to unique Twitter mentions. FCGU peaked with 172,751 Twitter mentions on Sunday as it beat San Diego State 81-71 to advance to the Sweet 16, according to HootSuite data generated for Playbook. FGCU earned 76,291 mentions on Friday, the day it upset Georgetown in the second round.

That number of unique mentions topped the best days of Ohio State, Wichita State and Indiana on Twitter. Ohio State and Indiana ran neck-and-neck on Twitter, with each team peaking at about 60,000 mentions during its third-round game last weekend.

Underdog teams such as Wichita State and FCGU generated a heavily positive sentiment on social media. HootSuite’s measurement of Twitter sentiment showed 75 percent of the tweets generated about FGCU and 85 percent of the Tweets generated about Wichita State showed affection/friendliness, enjoyment/elation, amusement/excitement or contentment/gratitude.

Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, whose 3-pointer with 0.5 of a second to play gave the Buckeyes a 78-75 victory over Iowa State on Sunday, remains the most popular player of the tournament on Twitter and Facebook.

His rise on Twitter came with an assist from this post by the NBA's king of social media: LeBron James.

James, who has 7.7 million Twitter followers and 13.7 million likes on his Facebook page, tweeted the above congratulatory message moments after Craft's winning shot. It has been retweeted more than 11,000 times and helped Craft earn 68,550 Twitter mentions. Mentions of Craft spiked 181,000 percent at around the time of his winning shot on Facebook, and he was talked about five times more than the next most mentioned player on that site, Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss.

Henderson, who exited the tournament with a double middle-finger salute to the crowd in Kansas City, Mo., after Mississippi lost to La Salle 76-74 on Sunday, created plenty of social media buzz. He earned 23,831 Twitter mentions Monday after a YouTube clip of his twin-finger farewell was posted. That video earned nearly 200,000 views.

The heavily promoted #MarchMadness hashtag appeared to be a winner in every region. It was featured on all the games televised on CBS and Turner Broadcasting and appeared more than 455,000 times on Twitter from last Thursday through Sunday, HootSuite said. #MarchMadness appeared an additional 116,120 times via Twitter on Monday as people went back to work lamenting about what happened to their brackets.

The Iowa State-Ohio State game Sunday generated the most live tweets (401,385) of any tournament game thus far, according to data generated for Playbook from SocialGuide. The Temple-Indiana game later Sunday was the second mosttalked about NCAA tournament game on Twitter, generating 387,070 posts on Twitter, SocialGuide said.

The other top-five talked about games on Twitter were the Eagles’ victories on Sunday (360,973) and Friday (353,202) and Wichita State’s upset of Gonzaga (309,710) in Salt Lake City. The #FCGU hashtag was used 70,293 times on Sunday, while #DunkCity was used more than 12,000 times. Those numbers from SocialGuide were all measured during a span starting three hours before tipoff and ending three hours after the game.

FGCU's victory over San Diego State was the most talked about game in the round of 32 on Facebook. Mentions of "Dunk City” on that site showed a spike of 39,000 percent during FCGU’s game Sunday. The other top-five games in terms of buzz on Facebook were: Wichita State's victory over Gonzaga, Indiana's victory over Temple, Ohio State’s defeat of Iowa State and Marquette's down-to-the-last-shot triumph against Butler on Saturday.

The Eagles are also scoring on YouTube.

The sequel to Florida Gulf Coast University's "Dunk City" video hit the video site Thursday.

Eagles Thrown' Alleys features rappers DJ Malike Adigun (Black Magic) and Amber Angeloro (Bambi) and several of their fellow Florida Gulf Coast University students.

The video was shot on campus and elsewhere in Fort Myers, Fla. It was produced by the same team, which includes brothers Nate Combs and Shayne Wolfe, that posted the first "Dunk City" video over the weekend in the hours following the Eagles’ first NCAA tournament victory. That clip has more than 496,000 views on YouTube.

The group is also producing a video for CBS to use as part of its Sweet 16 coverage. No. 15 FCGU and No. 3 Florida meet in Arlington, Texas, at Cowboys Stadium on Friday. Tipoff is 9:57 p.m. Eastern.


#&8226; The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Calgary’s Jerome Iginla early Thursday morning, swiping him after news of a deal with the Boston Bruins had been reported. The EA Sports NHL Twitter feed sums up the story:

#&822; Perhaps the end of the Miami Heat’s winning streak in Chicago after 27 games was foreshadowed Wednesday night when LeBron James stopped for a quick photo op with Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane before the game.

Sometimes a Cubs hat is all it takes.

#&8226; Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been busy promoting his appearance in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," which opens Thursday, and his showdown with John Cena at WrestleMania 29 on April 7 at MetLife Stadium.

Those paths merged Wednesday during an appearance on "Live! With Kelly and Michael" when Johnson gave co-host Michael Strahan a WWE title belt as a gift. Vanessa Williams was co-hosting in place on Kelly Ripa. She had to "settle" for a bouquet of pink roses.

Earlier this week, several athletes of note attended screenings of the movie, including Drew Brees, Ryan Howard, Ray Rice and several members of the New York Knicks.

Carmelo Anthony and James White of the Knicks offered their own pose in front a larger-than-life-size poster featuring Johnson after a screening on Monday.

The time off didn't hurt, as the Knicks beat the Celtics 100-85 in Boston on Tuesday and Grizzlies 108-101 at home Wednesday night.

Bill Speros is an ESPN.com contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @billsperos or via email at bsperos1@gmail.com.