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March 15, 2012

Florida State not letting Bonnies' high praise shift focus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - On the face, St. Bonaventure head coach Mike Schmidt all but conceded his team's upcoming game as he held serve in the belly of Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

His team shouldn't be here, he says. "(Florida State) is supposed to beat us."

"A week ago, we're talking about going to the CBI Tournament, and now we're sitting here getting ready to play Florida State," Schmidt said. "(FSU has) great length, great athleticism, great quickness. Beating Duke, beating Carolina, that's all you need to know about how good they are.

"Hopefully what we can do is give them a little trouble."

Schmidt leaned back for a rope-a-dope that would make Muhammad Ali proud, but humility is always a popular party line among low seeds this time of year. The No. 3 seed Seminoles (24-9) don't seem to be softening up with the modesty thrown its way, insisting they are staying focused on a talented Bonnies (20-11) team that has won seven of eight games. Tipoff between FSU and No. 14 seed St. Bonaventure is scheduled for approximately 2:45 p.m. ET on Friday.

The winner will take on the winner of No. 6 Cincinnati and No. 11 Texas game on Sunday.

"They're in a tournament for a reason. These (St. Bonaventure) guys can play," FSU center Bernard James said. "I don't buy the whole Cinderella story thing. That's a little ploy to get people's guard down, having people thinking it will be an easy game and they come out and hit you in the mouth.

"So, I mean, we're definitely expecting a punch right out of the gate. We're going to throw one ourselves."

St. Bonaventure was way off the NCAA Tournament radar a week ago until it completed an improbable run through the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Its 67-56 win over Xavier in the A-10 Championship gave the Bonnies their first NCAA bid since 2000. Schmidt said the key was the team's free-bird mentality.

"A miracle happened in Atlantic City (in the A-10 Tournament). So we're just going to come - just like we did in Atlantic City, we're going to play Bonaventure basketball," Schmidt said. "We played loose, we played aggressive, we defended, we rebounded, we took care of the basketball. And we have nothing to lose."

The Bonnies are fueled by 6-foot-9 forward Andrew Nicholson, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and a future NBA draft pick who leads the team in scoring (18.4) and rebounding (8.5).

Schmidt's conceding and the reality of Nicholson's game tape don't swoon FSU coach Leonard Hamilton into believing his team holds a sizeable advantage. St. Bonaventure played against two ACC teams this season, falling to Virginia Tech 73-64 on Nov. 27 and losing to N.C. State 67-65 on Dec. 20.

"I'm sure that coach knows his team better than I do, so I can't really comment on -- I can't contradict what he's saying," said Hamilton. "But I know what I've seen. I can see them being a tough matchup for anybody."

FSU senior guard Luke Loucks said the team has spent significant time this week talking about staying focused on the opponent, admitting that the Seminoles have played down to teams this season. Three of the Seminoles' nine losses this season came to two sub-150 RPI teams (Clemson, Boston College) and Princeton at home. Florida State does have history on its side, however; A No. 3 seed has only lost to a No. 14 seed 16 times in the history of the tournament. It has only happened once since 2006.

"They're just as talented as a lot of teams we've played all year long," said Loucks, who has helped FSU to 15 wins in the past 18 games. "All the seeding means nothing at this point, you win or you go home.

"We've been discussing it a lot, and we'll keep discussing it until the game. When the name doesn't say Duke or Carolina on the jersey, that doesn't mean it's not a good team."

Notables

  • FSU coach Leonard Hamilton has some ties to the Nashville area. He played two seasons at Tennessee-Martin (1969-71), which is 150 miles west of Nashville and he was an assistant at Austin Peay - 50 miles southeast of Nashville - from 1971-74.

    "I have a lot of friends. Only thing negative, I've had to buy 20 extra tickets. That's a little bit costly. I didn't realize it coming into this area, my phone is ringing off the hook," Hamilton joked.

  • While this is the first NCAA Tournament trip for St. Bonaventure since 2000, it has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1970.



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