FSU Hoops on the Upswing

It was a defensive blunder, by the nation's top defensive team, that caused a heartbreaking 72-71 overtime loss to Virginia Commonweath in the NCAA Sweet 16. The other cruel irony? It was senior Derwin Kitchen -- the Seminoles' best player on the court Friday night with 23 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, one turnover -- playing the culprit.

  Somehow, Kitchen lost his man, Bradford Burgess, who took an inbounds pass under the basket with seven seconds left and scored an easy layup. Kitchen then got took the ball drove downcourt, but tossed a pass to Chris Singleton, whose shot was blocked as the buzzer sounded.
  The Seminoles (23-11) ended their best NCAA Tournament run in 18 years with the toughest of last-second losses. In the final weeks, this team was defeated by North Carolina, Virginia Tech (ACC Tournament) and now VCU when having a lead in the final minute.
  In this case, however, VCU led a majority of the game, building a nine-point lead in the second half before the Seminoles rallied. They tied the game with a Chris Singleton's 3-pointer and actually had the ball on the final possession in regulation after Bernard James blocked a shot. But again, Kitchen couldn't get a shot off as the buzzer sounded.
  Still, for a team picked sixth in the ACC in preseason, FSU finished third and surprised with a pair of upset wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles' inability to deliver a game-winning play, either on offense or defense, was their undoing.
  They will head into next year with higher expectations, given the group of returning players.   
  --Junior F Chris Singleton, playing his most minutes since sustaining a broken right foot more than a month ago, delivered a big game. He had 16 points and eight rebounds. None bigger than his 3-point shot in the final 40 seconds of regulation play.
  --FSU coach Leonard Hamilton became the second coach in school history to lead the Seminoles to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and has guided Florida State to six consecutive post season tournaments (each year since the 2005-06 season).
  --Hamilton now has a 5-6 record in six NCAA Tournament appearances while the head coach at the University of Miami and Florida State. Hamilton led Miami to the Sweet 16 of the 2000 NCAA Tournament with wins over Arkansas and Ohio St.
  --FSU will become the first team since Georgetown during the 1990 and 1991 seasons to lead the nation in back-to-back seasons in the field goal percentage defense category. Florida State led the NCAA with a .377 field goal percentage defense mark during the 2009-10 season.
  --This marked the first time in the history of both schools that Florida and Florida State have made the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in the same year.
  --Florida State has likely earned some respect within the ACC community and the league's fans. The league only had four teams make the NCAA Tournament, and this the first time since 2005 that the ACC had three teams in the Sweet 16.
  --Five of the Seminoles' 10 losses this season are against teams that have advanced to the Sweet 16 -- North Carolina (twice) Butler, Florida and Ohio State.
  --The Seminoles forced Texas A&M and Notre Dame to shoot under 32 percent, extending their edge as the national leader in field-goal percentage defense. The Seminoles, whose opponents are now shooting less than 35 percent, are looking to become the first team since Georgetown during the 1990 and 1991 seasons to lead the nation in back-to-back seasons in that category.

  If only the Seminoles could convince junior forward Chris Singleton to return next season. This team would have legitimate hopes of making it back to this stage. The lone scholarship senior is Derwin Kitchen. Everyone else can return. But Singleton is a potential first-round NBA draft pick and the Seminoles don't expect him to stay. Even so, they have a solid future with Bernard James in the front court and freshman Ian Miller, their best outside shooter in the backcourt. If Hamilton can figure a way for this team to get a better offensive flow, the Seminoles could be more dangerous than this year's team.

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