In the Florida State locker room, minutes after the Seminoles' 71-57 thrashing of Notre Dame on Sunday night, the players were looking over sheets of paper with the box score on them, many staring at the numbers in disbelief.
Guard Deividas Dulkys walked into the middle, held his above his head and cracked a smile before looking around at his teammates and asking, "Where am I going to frame this?"
Dulkys had plenty of reasons for hanging the piece of paper on a wall of his home. For starters, they signified Florida State's first trip to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 since 1993. The clock had also struck midnight just a few minutes earlier, making it Dulkys' 23rd birthday.
Moreover, Dulkys also busted out a shooting slump against the Irish. Dulkys hit his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the left wing that put the Seminoles up 12-9 - they would never relinquish that lead - and went on to make 2-of-4 3-pointers and finish with eight points. He also chipped in two assists, a block and a steal.
In his previous four games, Dulkys had made just 2 of 23 shots (9 percent) from the floor and was coming off a scoreless performance on 0-of-3 shooting against Texas A&M in the round of 64.
"I had to make shots," Dulkys said. "The coaches and my teammates kept having confidence in me and I had confidence in myself. When I made that first one it felt really good … This is like the best birthday present ever."
Seeing Dulkys knock down his first shot may have sparked the rest of the team to some hot outside shooting. That was FSU's first 3-pointer of the game and they went on to make 9 of 19 shots from beyond the arc with six players each hitting at least one 3-pointer.
Getting Dulkys back on track is important moving forward. The junior was the team's best 3-point shooter last season, knocking down 39.7 percent of his attempts from the bonusphere. They'll likely need his long-range shooting ability to advance further.
"Deividas was recruited here to score, especially to shoot," said FSU guard Luke Loucks, who got an especially friendly bounce on a 3-pointer of his own in the first half. "We never doubted him. He's been through his struggles but we said, 'When you are open, shoot it.' That is what he was brought here to do and he stepped up at the best time possible."
Playing late just fine with 'Noles
What may have benefited Florida State most against Notre Dame was the extraordinarily late start time. With each NCAA Tournament game being televised in its entirety for the first time this year, the schedules are more stretched out than usual. With Duke and North Carolina playing on Sunday, CBS chose to put those marquee programs on in the afternoon and the Seminoles and Irish in the last game of the round of 32.
With tip off scheduled for 9:40 pm (ET), the Seminoles were given about 48 hours to recover emotionally after earning their first NCAA Tournament win in 13 years in 57-50 win over Texas A&M.
"I think it was probably one of the best things that happened for us was the game being moved to tonight," FSU assistant coach Stan Jones said. "We didn't have a bad practice (Saturday), but the players were still a little bit in the moment from the Texas A&M win and getting over that hump for our program. They came back this morning and really locked in on defending these guys."
Florida State will also play the last scheduled game in the round of 16 with tip-off against Virginia Commonwealth set for approximately 9:57 in San Antonio, Texas (the game will start 30 minutes after the Kansas-Richmond matchup, set to start at 7:???, ends on the same court)
VCU boasts Florida and ACC ties
Florida State's next opponent may be a Cinderella story but no team may have been more impressive in the first week of the NCAA Tournament.
Eleventh-seeded VCU (26-11), which was largely criticized by national media for not deserving an at-large bid, not only won three games in five days, but won each by 13 points or more, knocking off No. 12 seeded USC 59-46 in a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, and crushing No. 6 Georgetown (74-56) and No. 3 Purdue (94-76) in Chicago.
"They are kind of in the same boat as us," FSU guard Michael Snaer said. "No team plays defense like ours so we are going to frustrate them. When you think you have a good look, somebody is going to get a hand up and every time you think you have a layup our bigs are blocking it. You're going to get frustrated. You can't help it. As long as we keep playing defense the way we have been we will do that."
VCU has a lot of ties to the state of Florida and the ACC. Second-year coach Shaka Smart was an assistant at the University of Florida and Clemson.
VCU star point guard, 5-foot-10 Joey Rodriguez, played at Lake Howell High (Winter Springs, Fla.) with Gators forward Chandler Parsons and former Gator guard Nick Calathes.
Guard Ed Nixon played at Lakewood High in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Small forward Jamie Skeen is a transfer from Wake Forest, though none of the Seminoles have played against him at the college level. Skeen left Wake after the 2007-08 season.
"They have some Florida kids who we have recruited," FSU assistant coach Stan Jones said. "I got to watch them a little bit (against Purdue) and they like to run a little bit of Florida and Clemson's stuff. Coach Smart has taken from some of the dribble drive and motion that both those programs use."
How much Chris Singleton can progress and continue to knock the rust off from going five weeks without playing will continue to be a much-talked about issue this week. After returning from a foot injury, Singleton played a combined 26 minutes in FSU's first NCAA Tournament games, but he didn't look like the player who has earned third-team All-ACC honors the last two seasons. Singleton went a combined 2-of-7 from the field with five points and was held scorless in 10 minutes against the Irish.
Jones told Loucks that he got the "Sunday gospel roll" on a 3-pointer he made against the Irish which hit the front of the rim, bounced high into the air and then landed softly on the front of the rim again before falling through the hoop. "It was about the longest three second bounce I've ever seen," Loucks said with a grin.
Some comments Notre Dame players made provided FSU with some bulletin board material. "(Notre Dame forward) Scott (Martin) said (Big East Player of the Year) Ben Hansbrough was licking his chops at us. They asked him who was the last team they faced that was as defensive-minded as Florida State and they said West Virginia and Hansbrough almost had a triple double against them," FSU forward Chris Singleton said. "Personally, that got me fired up. I was just trying to make sure everybody knew the game plan."
Michael Snaer was also called for a technical in the second half after Hansbrough hit a 3-pointer. Snaer says an official mistakingly thought he was yelling at him and not coach Hamilton. "I yelled at coach because Jon (Kreft) didn't hedge on screen. If he had stepped up Hansborugh wouldn't have shot it. When he made it I yelled at coach and the ref thought I was talking to him. I went over there and apologized sincerely. That's not part of my character. I don't think ever had a technical before."