Leon County Civic Center, Tallahassee
8 p.m., Fox Sports Net
New head coach Leonard Hamilton appears to already be turning around the Florida State Seminoles basketball program.
Granted, it's early in the season. And, yes, blowout wins over Savannah St., Mercer, Birmingham Southern and Stetson don't count for much. But their other two wins are over Iowa and Miami (Fla.), both from elite conferences, and they lost by a single point to a ranked Florida squad.
FSU's 6-1 record is the team's best start since the 1997-98 season.
The reason for the impressive start? First and foremost, defense. The Seminoles lead the nation in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a .335 clip and a mere 57 points per game.
Hamilton inherited only one returning starter from a 12-17 squad, so he turned to the junior college ranks to acquire experienced talent that could contribute immediately. The two JuCo recruits have made an instant impact and comprise FSU's starting backcourt.
Nate Johnson is the floor leader, with a near 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio thus far. At the off guard is Tim Pickett, the team's high scorer (16.6 points)
"Tim brings experience and maturity to our basketball team," Hamilton said. "He is very athletic and has the versatility to play more than one position."
Pickett is never afraid to fire away from deep -- even if his shots aren't falling. Through seven games he's attempted 70 three-pointers (10 per game) at a 31 percent clip. He's shooting 38 percent overall.
At the forward spots are North Carolina products Anthony Richardson (10.3), a McDonalds All-American from Raleigh, and Michael Joiner (11.6), a prep star from Fayetteville -- both are essentially small forwards. Joiner is a well-rounded player, while Richardson is a wiry wing with terrific athleticism and unlimited potential.
"Being from North Carolina, those two will probably be a little more motivated to play against us," said UNC head coach Matt Doherty.
Leading the charge off the bench is speedy 5-11 freshman Todd Galloway, who last week earned conference Rookie of the Week honors. Adam Waleskowski provides frontcourt depth, as does Mike Mathews, a shot-blocking senior whose minutes have decreased over the last two years.
"They have a pretty mature group and I think that's an asset," Doherty said.
Of course, every team looks old in comparison to the 2002-2003 Tar Heels.
SCOUTING THE SEMINOLES
by Brett Ayers
Offense - Florida State knows two speeds; fast and break-neck. FSU wants to get that ball out of the net or off the boards and push it down your throat if they can. They are looking to get the ball up and the shot off from primarily the three point line. They are not a patient team and go inside on more of an accidental whim then anything else. They have a capable big man in Harvey. Once Pickett crosses half-court he is in range to shoot it. They will rarely make more than three passes before the ball goes up.
Defense - The Seminoles like to play that chest to chest man-to-man defense. They are not really good with the weakside help and maintain very poor vision away from the ball. They will, however, try to get up underneath you ala Duke. They want to give you that initial bump and make you turn either away from the hoop or at least sideways to the basket making you a much less offensive minded player.
22 Pickett - A two guard, three man combo who simply loves to shoot the ball. Guarded, open, semi-open; it does not matter to this kid. Will shoot the three on a 3-on-1 fast break.
54 Richardson - A Micky D's AA who is very, very athletic and very, very right handed. Wants to drive first then shoot his shot. Not really a three-point threat.
1 Joiner- A 6-7 kid who is long, lanky and has range to three on his stationary jumper. Shoots a very high percentage which says he is the only guy on the team who understands shot selection.
4 Galloway - A 5-11 freshman point guard who comes in and pushes the tempo up another notch if that is possible. Fearless point guard who shoots it from anywhere as well.
Background Location: Tallahassee, Fla. Conference: ACC Nickname: Seminoles Colors: Garnet & Gold Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton Record at FSU: 6-1 Last year Record: 12-17 Conference record: 4-12, 7th-tied Postseason: None Key personnel losses: Monte Cummings (6-4 G) – 15.5 ppg Delvon Arrington (5-11 G) – 11.3 ppg, 6.3 apg Antwuan Dixon (6-5 F) – 9.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg Nigel Dixon (6-10 C) – 8.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg Probable Starting Lineup: Nate Johnson (6-3, G, Jr.) – 5.4 ppg, 4.9 apg Tim Pickett (6-4, G, Jr.) – 16.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg Anthony Richardson (6-7, F, So.) – 10.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg Michael Joiner (6-7, F, Jr.) – 11.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg Trevor Harvey (6-10, C, Sr.) – 7.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 blk Key Reserves: Todd Galloway (5-11, G, Fr.) – 8.7 ppg Adam Waleskowski (6-8, F, So.) – 3.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg Mike Mathews (6-10, C, Sr.) – 2.6 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 1.0 blk
Tim Pickett ... Trevor Harvey
Michael Joiner ... Nate Johnson
(Photos by the Associated Press.)