Another season, another hosting opportunity for the Florida State women’s basketball program.
As the Seminoles watched their name pop up as a No. 3 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, hosting the first two rounds for the third time in four years, fans and players alike cheered confidently.
It wasn’t a jubilant celebration that will go viral on the internet, nor did the crowd that gathered at the Dunlap Champions Club for the Selection Show Party break out in a full frenzy. It was a celebration of a great year and another job well done by Sue Semrau’s program.
— FSU Women's Hoops (@fsuwbb) March 13, 2018
“We’ve made it every year (that I’ve played here),” Shakayla Thomas said. “Coach Sue has done a great job of putting us in a position to be successful.”
“It’s a place where it’s expected, we’ve built that culture,” Semrau added. “We want to be a staple (in women’s basketball) and we want to be a staple here in Tallahassee (hosting) the first two rounds.”
The Seminoles (25-6, 12-4 ACC) will host No. 14 seed Little Rock (Arkansas) in the first round as well as welcome No. 6 seed USF and No. 11 seed Buffalo to complete the Tallahassee pod. The Trojans enter with a record of 23-9 (17-1 Sun Belt), winners of both their conference’s regular season and tournament.
“They’re a great team and we need to make sure we go into it fully prepared,” Semrau said on the Trojans. “It’s the only game that’s guaranteed and we’ll need to get after it.”
The Bulls are no stranger to Tallahassee making the trip from Tampa for the second straight year. Ranked No. 19 in the polls to end the regular season, USF enters with a record of 26-7 (13-3 AAC). Buffalo heads south to the Sunshine State with a record of 27-5 (16-2 MAC), rounding out a talented, well-coached group of teams that will highlight the action in Florida’s capital city.
“I have a lot of respect for every team that’s going to be here,” Semrau said. “It’s going to be great basketball and we’ll have to get work preparing for Saturday.
Benefitting FSU is the luxury of playing on its home floor, in front of passionate fans. The Seminoles are also appreciative of being able to use their own practice facility to prepare for the opening rounds of the Big Dance.
“It’s big that we don’t have to travel, but to also have a home crowd behind you, it makes all the difference in the world, it’s a phenomenal advantage,” Semrau said.
“The fans are always supporting us no matter what and I think they’ll be a big part of helping us get these wins,” AJ Alix added on the home-court advantage.
The two weeks off between games can be a challenge for the team as they hope to keep rhythm, but the extra rest was welcomed and the coaching staff had a plan in place to keep the players in top physical shape, while making sure they maintained on-court chemistry.
“They’ve been pushing us hard to get to where we want to be. Our goal is to get to the Final Four and we can’t be lazy (in preparation) and complacent,” Alix said. “They’ve made sure to be on us for every small detail we mess up on. They’re preparing us well and we’ll be ready.”
A new season upon Florida State, a group with deep NCAA experience will rely on its familiarity of playing on this stage to try and advance to the school’s fourth-consecutive Sweet Sixteen. The Seminoles have established themselves as one of the dominant forces in women’s college basketball.
“We have a good feel for how this goes, we’re ready and very mentally prepared for it,” Thomas said on the team’s experience playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve been here four years and every year it’s a great feeling. We got to take care of business this year and knock everyone out.”