Florida State has handled the weak part of the schedule with relative ease. The Seminoles secured double-digit victories over each of their first four opponents and are coming off a dominating performance Sunday against South Alabama.
With that being said, FSU now heads for the first time this season out on the road, where the competition only promises to get better.
The ‘Noles plan to spend the Thanksgiving holiday on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, where they will compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The Seminoles face UMass on Thursday afternoon.
FSU is excited for the challenge.
"It's fun, and it's good to be enthusiastic about the tournament," said 6-foot-8 forward Okaro White. "To be able to play different types of teams that's not in your conference, that's always good to get out and play that type of basketball."
FSU will play three games in three days in a round-robin format. Eight teams are participating in the tournament. Amongst the teams is defending national champion UConn and in-state rival Central Florida.
The ‘Noles defeated the Knights of UCF 70-53 earlier in the season.
The 20th-ranked Seminoles will get the opportunity to showcase their ability in a weekend tournament with a format very similar to the ACC tournament. Playing games without much rest in between may help FSU later on in the season.
"Our coaches enjoy playing in tournaments like this because it's against quality, top-notch competition and it has that tournament-type feel to it," said senior point guard Luke Loucks. "You have to prepare for one team, and the next night, less than 24 hours later, you're playing another great, quality team. It kind of represents the same feeling as the ACC tournament, or even the NCAA tournament."
Playing in a tournament with formidable opponents should only help FSU identify its strengths and weaknesses. Just four games into the season, the ‘Noles have showed areas of improvement from last year.
However, despite outscoring opponents by a margin of 311-222 in those victories, Florida State is averaging 17.5 turnovers per game. The Seminoles must cut down on moments of sloppy play if they are going to have success this weekend.
Assistant coach Stan Jones stresses the importance of reducing the turnovers.
"We're going to have to be very intelligent and poised with the basketball versus the pressure and make sure we get quality shots and don't put ourselves in a position where turnovers lead to baskets for them," said Jones.
With a win Thursday, the ‘Noles would play the survivor of Harvard and Utah on Friday. A potential matchup with national champion Connecticut could loom if the Seminoles are able to get through their first two opponents.
Playing in a basketball tournament at the beautiful Paradise Island resort may cause for some distraction, but White insists he and his teammates are there for business.
"It's always great to get out and see different areas," he said, "but we came here to win and came here to win it all."
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
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