TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State men’s basketball team had about two hours to enjoy its win over Davidson in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The Seminoles, seeded fourth in their NIT bracket, polished off their 84-74 victory a little bit before 9 p.m. By 11 p.m., No. 1-seed Valparaiso had beaten No. 8 Texas Southern, sealing a second-round matchup with FSU on Thursday.
So less than 24 hours after their game, the Seminoles boarded a plane for Valparaiso, Ind., where the top-seeded Crusaders have lost just once this season.
“They’ve proven over the years that they’re a good basketball team. I think they won their conference (in the regular season) and they’re tough at home,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “So once again, we’ve got to be at our very best in order to be successful.”
The Crusaders went 26-6 and finished 16-2 to earn the Horizon League’s regular-season title.
An upset loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay in the conference tournament kept Valparaiso from back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. They earned a No. 13-seed in last year’s Big Dance.
But the Crusaders’ credentials seem otherwise worthy of the NCAA tournament. They’re ranked 49th in the NCAA ratings percentage index, have three players who score in double figures (a fourth averages 9.6 ppg) and, earlier this season, lost to Oregon by just six points.
The Ducks went on to claim a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Junior Alec Peters is at the center of Valpo’s attack. The 6-9, 230-pound forward leads the Crusaders in points per game (18.3) while grabbing 8.4 rebounds per game. He’s also an effective 3-point shooter, converting at a 44.9-percent clip from distance.
On the other end the Seminoles should have their hands full with Vashil Hernandez, the Horizon League’s Defensive Player of the Year who leads the nation with 3.25 blocked shots per game.
FSU, though, is riding a wave of momentum after an impressive second-half surge in Tuesday’s win.
Led by freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley, the Seminoles scored 54 points in the final 20 minutes to make relatively quick work of Davidson.
And with one postseason win in the books, the Seminoles say they’re planning for more.
“If we’re going to be in something, we plan to win it,” Bacon said. “It’s an opportunity to get a ring. Everybody on the team wants a ring, no matter what ring it is.”