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March 18, 2013

Hoops: FSU's attention will get tested in NIT

For the first time in five years, there was no watch party. There was no celebration.

For the first time in five years, Florida State is not in the NCAA Tournament, which presents its own kind of mental test: Getting motivated to play the 26-6 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.

Tipoff is set for 7:15 p.m. ET at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

"Nobody was really jumping for joy (when the NIT bracket was announced) because we know what we've done in the past," FSU forward Terrance Shannon said. "In my opinion, it's not to say we settle, but at the same time it's a disappointing season."

After a school-record four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, FSU makes its first NIT appearance since 2008.

While FSU's NCAA fate had been sealed for several weeks - barring a magical run to the ACC Tournament title as it's only opportunity for a bid - Forward Okaro White says it's the new-found tradition of NCAA appearances that makes the NIT a tough pill to swallow for the Seminoles.

"It's very tough, and I want to believe the coaches are worrying about that because it's tough to get guys going who are not used to the NIT," said White, whose team went 18-15 this season. "So it will be tough, but at the end of the day we came here to play basketball, we should be hyped for any game we play."

FSU will need to regain focus on a strong Louisiana Tech team that went 26-6 and 16-2 in conference to win the WAC regular season crown. The Bulldogs also won 18 straight games at one point this season.

Louisiana Tech utilizes a frenetic style with a deep roster as 11 players average at least 10 minutes per game. The depth allows it to bringing constant full court pressure, which makes the Bulldogs one of the nation's best when it comes to forcing turnovers (18 turnovers per game). The Bulldogs have also shot 750 three-pointers this season.

All told, Louisiana Tech plays the style of basketball that can wake a team up in a hurry.

"We know they are a very dangerous team," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who compared the Bulldogs style to North Carolina, which FSU just faced in the ACC Tournament on Friday night. "Their record speaks for itself."

Hamilton said his team should have plenty to be concerned with when it comes to its opponent.

"There are 32 teams in the NIT, 15 are probably better than 15 of the teams in the NCAA (Tournament). So this is a very challenging field there's no doubt," Hamilton said. "So if you're a basketball player, a fan or a coach you realize that. So we have no reason to not be excited about this opportunity and know we have to give this team the utmost respect."

With no dance card in hand, the Seminoles' will have to look within or head home with an early NIT exit.

"Honestly, we've just got to pull it together," Shannon said. "Once it's time to get on the court and perform I'm definitely going to do my part. Find a way to get a win. It's not going to be an easy task as we know it, but we're up for the challenge."

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