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March 13, 2011
For Florida State to win its first NCAA Tournament game in 13 years it will have to upset a higher seed.
Florida State (21-10, 11-5 ACC) was placed in the Southwest region of the NCAA Tournament, and, as many expected, received a No. 10 seed in the newly expanded field of 68 teams (was previously 65). The Seminoles are matched up against No. 7 Texas A&M (24-8, 10-6 Big 12) in the United Center in Chicago at 4:10 pm on Friday. The winner will face the winner of No. 2 Notre Dame (26-6, 14-4 Big East) and No. 15 Akron (23-12, 9-7 MAC) on Sunday in Chicago.
"We kind of knew we were going to be somewhere between the 8-12 range," said FSU guard Luke Loucks, who watched the NCAA Tournament selection show at coach Leonard Hamilton's house along with the rest of the team. "A lot of people had us going 8 or 9 before the Virginia Tech game, and after 10-11 (FSU lost 52-51 to the Hokies in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals last Friday)."
This is the third straight year the Seminoles have earned an NCAA bid, which marks the first time the program has done so since 1991-93.
"I'm not real sure that we are as "giddeous" as we were last year," Hamilton said. "I think this team realizes that we now have a new season. I like the attitude and focus. There was not a lot of jumping up and down and clapping."
FSU's last two NCAA trips resulted in first-round exits with the Seminoles falling as a No. 8 seed to No. 9 Gonzaga 67-60 in 2010 and being upset as a No. 5 seed by No. 12 Wisconsin 61-59 in overtime in 2009.
The loss to Virginia Tech in Greensboro may have knocked the Seminoles down to a No. 10 seed and out of the dreaded No. 8/No. 9 matchup, which is a virtual guarantee of facing a No. 1 seed in the second round (no No. 1 seed has ever lost in the first round). Derwin Kitchen appeared to hit a game-winning jump shot at the buzzer against the Hokies, but after officials reviewed replays it was ruled that the shot came a split second too late.
The last time FSU was the lower seed in its first-round NCAA Tournament matchup was the last time it won. In 1998 as a No. 12 seed, the Seminoles knocked off No. 5 seed TCU before falling to Valparaiso in the second round.
"Last year (against Gonzaga) we had a big letdown," Kitchen said. "We didn't play as well as we knew we could. The Wisconsin game we should have won. We let that get away. ? It's a brand new season for everybody. It's all great teams. Everybody is 0-0."
FSU got into the field largely on the strength of earning 11 wins in the ACC and the fact that one of those came against Duke, which landed a No. 1 seed. While the 12-team conference had a down year, it was still among the nation's best, ranking as the fifth strongest league in the RPI and sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament, including No. 2 North Carolina and No. 12 Clemson (Virginia Tech narrowly missed out on a bid).
The Seminoles were 1-5 against opponents from the top 50 of the RPI with that lone win coming against Duke and only beat two teams in the NCAA Tournament field (Duke and Clemson).
The Seminoles did manage to win three of their last six games without small forward Chris Singleton, who hasn't played since fracturing a bone in his right foot against Virginia back on February 12th.
It appears there's a realistic possibility that Singleton will return against Texas A&M. In the ACC Tournament, Singleton was in uniform for the first time since suffering that injury and coach Leonard Hamilton said he "probably" could have played.
"I'm surprised that he has the stamina that he has with very little work," Hamilton said. "But that's his nature. He's always been one of those guys that seems to be able to maintain a high conditioning level. ? I really don't have a gut feel (about him playing)."
Texas A&M is an especially tough first-round draw considering the Big 12 program has reached the second round five straight years. The Aggies beat four teams in the NCAA field, including Temple, Washington, Missouri (twice) and Kansas State.
Like the Seminoles, the Aggies are a deep and defensive-oriented club. They have two players who average double figures in scoring (swingman Kris Middleton at 14.3 ppg and big man David Loubeau at 11.9 ppg) and use a nine-man rotation. The Seminoles have one player averaging double figures (Singleton at 13.8 ppg) and a 10-man rotation without Singleton.
FSU and Texas A&M share two common opponents, Boston College and Baylor. The Aggies lost 67-65 to the Eagles in the Old Spice Classic tournament in November and lost both meetings to Big 12 rival Baylor (including an overtime game at home). The Seminoles won their only meeting with the Eagles 67-51 at home on Jan. 22 and beat Baylor 68-61 in the Diamond Head Classic tournament in Hawaii in December.
"It will be just like the Ohio State game and the Florida game at the beginning of the year (FSU lost to both non-conference opponents at home)," said FSU big man Bernard James. "We don't know much about the team. We're just going to have a cram session in the next couple of days to learn everything about them."
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