Noles Look Forward to NCAA Tourney

While they won't say it for obvious reasons, the Seminoles (21-10) were silently thrilled with their NCAA Tournament draw. Dropped to a No. 10 seed, Florida State faces Texas A&M in the first round of Southwest Regional at the United Center in Chicago. The winner likely gets a matchup against No. 2 seed Notre Dame, which is a short drive from the Chicago area.


  But for all the possibilities, this was one of the best ones for the Seminoles. They will be playing on a Friday, which gives an extra day to prepare and travel. They will be playing Texas A&M in a true neutral setting, plus in a large city where FSU does have an alumni chapter.
  If they win, a feat in itself given this program's dubious NCAA tourney history, the Seminoles won't have to face a No. 1 seed in the second round. Instead, the winner likely faces a Notre Dame team that has shown some vulnerability. The Irish are 4-4 after an overtime loss to Louisville in the Big East Tournament semifinals.
  All projections heading into the ACC Tournament were the Seminoles being slotted as a No. 8 or No. 9 seed and either getting sent to Tulsa where Kansas would be a No. 1 or the East region where Pittsburgh or Ohio State could be No. 1.
  After their disappointing loss in the ACC tournament quarterfinals against Virginia Tech -- a game they figured to have won on Derwin Kitchen's last-second shot before officials overturned it -- this may provide a little extra incentive.
  "I'm not real sure that we are as "giddeous" as we were last year," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who hosted the entire team at his home in Tallahassee to watch the selection show. "I think this team realizes that we now have a new season. I like the attitude and focus. There was not a lot of jumping up and down and clapping.
  "I think we're a good basketball team. And I think we're going to be a very difficult matchup for whoever we play. This team has improved an awful lot since the beginning of the year."
  Two major issues for the Seminoles heading into Friday's game. Will forward Chris Singleton play? Can they curtail ball-handling and shooting woes from their backcourt?
  Singleton, the standout junior forward likely heading into the NBA draft, has missed six consecutive games with a foot injury. He dressed out and went through warmups in the ACC tournament, but that was only for show and to possibly get people thinking he was ready to play.
  "I'm sure he probably could have played," Hamilton said. "But that wasn't any consideration of mine. I have to be convinced a little longer. I want to make sure whatever decision we make will be in Chris's best interest. Right now we have to allow nature to take its course and we'll see where he is.
  "Could he have played? Probably. Did I think about playing him? No I didn't."
  But for the Seminoles to have a shot against Texas A&M, they can't afford 20 turnovers like they made against Virginia Tech, or have their backcourt continue clanging perimeter shots.
  There is some urgency for FSU to win their first NCAA Tournament game in 13 years. Hamilton has not fared well, both in the NIT or NCAA tourney since coming to FSU nine years ago. The Seminoles were upset two years ago as No. 5 seed in a first-round loss, overtime loss to Wisconsin. They were beaten as a No. 8 seed a year ago against No. 9 Gonzaga.
  "Last year (against Gonzaga) we had a big letdown," Kitchen said. "We didn't play as well as we knew we could. The Wisconsin game we should have won. We let that get away. It's a brand new season for everybody. It's all great teams. Everybody is 0-0."

NOTES, QUOTES
  --One reason for the No. 10 seed? The Seminoles were 1-5 against the top 50 teams in the RPI. Their lone signature win was against Duke. They beat two teams in the NCAA Tournament field (Duke and Clemson).
  --Junior F Bernard James was honored at the ACC Tournament for his military service. He served six years in the Air Force before resuming his college basketball career at Tallahassee Community College.
  --The Seminoles' last win in the NCAA Tournament occurred in 1998 in Oklahoma City where they upset No. 5 seeded Texas Christian in the first round. It was former coach Steve Robinson's first year. The program took a nosedive from that point until Hamilton arrived nine years ago.
  --FSU has won at least 20 games in five of the last six years. This marks just the third time FSU has won at least 11 ACC games in a season, and its first since recording 12 conference wins in 1993.
  --The Seminoles are playing in their third consecutive NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history. The last stretch was 1991-93 under Pat Kennedy. FSU has advanced into the second round only six times and made it the Sweet 16 only three times in school history. One of those was 1972 when losing in the national title game to UCLA. The other two times were both under Pat Kennedy in '92 and '93.
  COACH: Leonard Hamilton, nine years at Florida State, seventh postseason appearance (third time in NCAA Tourney)
  KEYS TO VICTORY: The Seminoles must figure a way to get backcourt production. They are a very good team when one of their guards gets hot from the perimeter and can bust the zone defenses they consistently face. They will defend well and block shots. But avoiding stretches of futile offense is a must. This team should be charged up to play, after two years of first-round losses.
  QUOTE TO NOTE: We have to learn if you're in a tournament that's one and done, every possession is important. This is a great lesson for our guys as we move on. We'll do a much better job of valuing every possession." -- Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, following his team's loss in the ACC Tournament.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
  GAME PREVIEW:
  vs. Texas A&M, Friday March 18, NCAA Tournament second round
  KEY MATCHUPS: The Seminoles have to like the entire matchup. Texas A&M's top two scorers are forwards Nathan Walkup and Khris Middleton and both are 6-foot-7. They will get matched against the Seminoles array of big men that leads with 6-10 Bernard James and 6-8 Terrance Shannon. The Seminoles also have 7-1 Jon Kreft and 6-11 Xavier Gibson coming off the bench. The Seminoles, however, will need to defend guard B.J. Holmes, an honorable mention Big 12 conference pick. Another starter, guard David Loubeau, grew up in Miami, so you would figure he's going to be extra pumped to play Florida State.
  SCOUTING REPORT: The Seminoles are a defensive team first, second and third. Their problem is not stopping points, it's scoring points. They tend to go through stretches of erratic shooting and poor ballhandling. Opponents have consistently packed a 2-3 zone against them, daring the guards to make 3-point shots and having good chances at rebounds when they do not. When FSU is dangerous is transition baskets off turnovers and second-chance points when short-range shots are missed. There are times when the Seminoles can give any opponent fits, like they did this year against Duke or North Carolina. There are other times when their shooting is so bad they can get blown out, like they did against Virginia Tech and Maryland.
  Texas A&M is also defense oriented, so expect a low-scoring game. The teams have two common opponents, Baylor and Boston College. Texas A&M went 0-3, losing twice to Baylor. FSU beat Baylor and Boston College.

PLAYER NOTES
  --Junior F Chris Singleton (right foot) remains questionable for the NCAA tournament. He wants to play, but there is some reluctance on how quickly to try and rush him back, given Singleton's projection as an NBA draft pick. If he plays against Texas A&M, the next issue is how he will mesh back into the flow on offense and defensive, after missing nearly a month.
  "I'm surprised that he has the stamina that he has with very little work," Hamilton said. "But that's his nature. He's always been one of those guys that seems to be able to maintain a high conditioning level. I really don't have a gut feel (about him playing)."
  --Freshman G Ian Miller was one of just two players scoring in double figures in FSU's lone ACC tournament game. But he's not as sound on defense as starters Deividas Dulkys and Michael Snaer, or backup Luke Loucks.

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