March 17, 2011
|Friday, March 18th – 4:10 pm EST|
|United Center | Chicago, IL|
|Tickets – Available | Seating Chart|
|TV: TBS | Radio: Seminole Sports Network|
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|Head to Head|
Chicago, IL – If 10th-seeded Florida State (21-10) wants to advance past its opening game of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since upsetting Texas Christian in 1998, the Seminoles will have to do something no team has been able to do in the last five years. The `Noles will have to beat a team in Texas A&M (24-8) which is one of only two schools in the nation that have advanced past their first NCAA Tournament opponent in each of the previous five seasons.
The Aggies join the University of Pittsburgh as the only squads that have won their opening game of the NCAA Tournament for five straight years. Something Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UConn or any other major basketball power has been unable to do. That will be the task at hand for a Seminole squad making its school-tying record third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
“There’s no doubt that they (Texas A&M) execute extremely well on the offensive end,” said FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton. “Defensively, they’re one of the better defensive teams in the country.
“But they’re a typical NCAA opponent that’s very qualified, extremely well coached. And we realized that we need to be at our very best in order to be successful.”
For the Seminoles finding a way to not only beat the Aggies but get over the hurdle that has been the first game of the NCAA Tournament has been a challenge. Hamilton’s team lost by two points in 2009 in an overtime game versus Wisconsin and last season the team lost by nine points to Gonzaga. This year’s squad is the most experienced NCAA Tournament team in nearly two decades at Florida State and they will rely on that experience Friday.
“The first year, we finally got over the hump,” said Derwin Kitchen when asked about the team’s NCAA Tournament experience. “And it was like we were just so happy to be here for the first time in a while. Last year, we just dumped out big time against Gonzaga. We really didn’t come ready to play.”
That doesn’t seem to be the case this time around. Three of Florida State’s probable starters played in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and overall eight members of the 2010-11 team have played in the NCAA Tournament during their careers.
“This is our third trip in a row to the NCAA Tournament,” said Hamilton.” It seems as though it’s the most focused that our players have been. We’ve had very good practices. They’ve had a very mature, workmanlike attitude as they have approached the preparation.
“Our players are excited about being in the tournament. I really like the attitude and the respect they’ve shown for our preparation as we look at Texas A&M.”
The Aggies enter the NCAA Tournament with a 2-3 record in the last five games but two of those losses came to top 10 teams. Overall Texas A&M has won seven of the last 10 and since 2006 the Aggies have played 11 NCAA Tournament games so those looking for an edge one way or another probably won’t find any when it comes to experience.
“Our players really seem relaxed and a part of this,” said Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon. “You know, they’re hungry. They’re excited, all that kind of stuff. It’s just kind of routine for them, which is good. It’s good to get the young guys, the freshmen, to see it too. I’m sure they’re a little wide-eyed.
“Our old veterans have been through it. It just feels like another game at this point, to be honest with you. Tomorrow it won’t when we wake up and see NCAA Tournament game. But right now the guys are just relaxed and focused and trying to figure out a way to beat Florida State.”
Most of the pre-game focus in Chicago has been centered on the similarities between FSU and A&M. Both teams rank nationally in numerous defensive categories. The Seminoles limit their opponents to just over 62 points per game on average and hold them to a shooting percentage of just .364, the top field goal defense in the nation. The Aggies hold their opponents to just 61 points per game and out rebound them by an average of 6.5 rebounds per game.
When asked who Florida State reminded him of Aggie forward Nathan Walkup answered “Kind of ourselves”.
“We have kind of the same defensive principle, like to keep the ball out of the paint. Oh, yeah, they have a lot of length like Temple had. Earlier in the year, we played them in the Old Spice Classic. So kind of us and Temple.”
“They’re so good defensively because they’re well-coached defensively,” said Turgeon. “Leonard (Hamilton) does a great job, always has. They’ve got tremendous size and length, and they use it.”
FSU fans will be able to watch the defensive battle play out in just about 24 hours. The entire game versus Texas A&M will be broadcast on TBS Friday with tip-off scheduled for 4:10 p.m. EST. No matter what the score of the game, TBS will cover the Florida State game until the final second compared to years past when CBS sometimes would cut away to more compelling games. Follow all the action from Chicago with our Seminoles.com team.