Second Chance

Out with the old and in with the new. And in between: the National Invitational Tournament. Florida State (18-13) – losers of five straight to end their season - travels to Wichita State (21-10) for an NIT first-round game Wednesday night hoping for a strong showing that would provide a smooth transition into an off-season in which roster turnover will be significant.

Florida State's first victory in a month couldn't hurt either - the Seminoles' last win was on Feb. 17.

"You look around the country, many times the NIT is the stepping stone for years to come as far as making runs in the NCAA Tournament and making runs in the conference," sophomore Andrew Wilson said.

"We feel pretty confident with the way things are looking."

Wilson sits in a unique spot, representing a nexus of the past and the future of FSU basketball. Though technically a sophomore, Wilson is in his fourth year with the team after picking up two medical redshirts in the past two years.

He now starts at small forward.

"Anytime you get a chance to play beyond the season, it is going to be a boost for your program," Wilson said.

"It's an opportunity for the program to gain some exposure and play on a national scene. We can learn a lot from this."

Establishing a winning mindset will also be important for the Seminoles, who were unable to finish off opponents in close games all season, especially on the road. The 'Noles managed wins against only Miami and Stetson in their road garnets.

For that mentality to reach the younger players in the program is of of even greater importance. An example can go a long way.

"I think that can be real important because something we haven't been able to show (freshmen) Von Wafer and Alexander Johnson is what it takes to win because we haven't been there," Wilson said.

"If we are successful in the tournament, we can show them and the guys we have coming in what it takes."

It was no shocker that the Seminoles were bypassed by the NCAA's Selection Committee and FSU coach Leonard Hamilton isn't letting that bother his team in preparation for the Shockers, who finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Despite its mid-major status, Wichita State averages over 10, 000 fans a game so the Seminoles can bet on playing in a hostile environment.

"Hopefully this will prove to be a tremendous learning experience for our guys," Hamilton, who took Miami to the NIT in his fourth year in Coral Gables.

"Maybe this will make us a better program over the long haul than if we could have made the tournament and still not progressed in some areas.

"We may have to grind it out instead of short-circuiting and getting lucky."

Leading scorer Tim Pickett did not practice this week but will play against the Shockers. Pickett is nursing a pair of hyper extended ankles – his left worse than his right.

The winner will move on to face either Georgia or Iowa State in the second round. The site has yet to be determined.

"This game is really about making a mark for next year," Johnson said. "This is our start off to continue growing as a team."


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