ORLANDO, Fla. – For the first time in five years, Leonard Hamilton and the Florida State men’s basketball team are back in the NCAA Tournament. On Thursday, they will face a Florida Gulf Coast team that reminds the Seminoles of themselves.
Both schools share the ability to go deep into their bench. Florida State has 11 players averaging more than 10 minutes per game and FGCU has 10 players getting over 10 minutes per game.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for this team,” said Hamilton. “They’re one of the top teams in America in different areas. We realize they are who they are. They play to their strengths. We play to our strengths. They’ll be familiar with us. We’ll be familiar with them.”
While the Eagles earned their bid to the tournament by beating North Florida in the A-Sun Championship, FSU is 4-4 in their last eight games. Hamilton attributed their late season struggles to their tough ACC schedule. This season 13 of the Seminoles 25 wins have come against teams that were selected for the NCAA tournament. During a period in January, FSU beat Notre Dame, Louisville and Duke.
“I think that stretch of games that we went on there, I think our mindset was hunting people,” said FSU guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes. “We were trying to earn our respect as a program and as a group of guys. I think we did a really good job of going out there and performing at a high level each and every night.”
In spite of the late season setback, Florida State was selected as a No. 3 seed in the Tournament, which ties the school record for highest seed. They’ve face FGCU once before during the 2014 NIT Tournament. FSU won that game 58-53 but they’re not concerned with what happened in the past.
“I feel like now it’s a new season,” said FSU guard Dwayne Bacon. “There’s a lot of teams that we haven’t played. All they have is film. They haven’t really played against us, and how our tempo is and what we can do. They haven’t really seen us in person.”