March 12, 2018 - by
Noles Revel In Tournament Bid, Embrace Mizzou Challenge

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Consider Terance Mann a fan of TBS’ take on the NCAA tournament selection show.

While the program took heat on social media for teasing out the bracket over the course of two hours on Sunday evening, Mann and his teammates on the Florida State basketball team liked it for one reason: The show revealed each of the 68 teams to make the field, albeit without their seeding or sites, within the first 10 minutes.

Which meant the Seminoles didn’t have to wait long to learn that they’d be donning their dancing shoes for the second straight season.

Florida State, the No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament West region, will meet eighth-seeded Missouri on Friday at 9:50 p.m., in Nashville, Tenn. The winner then gets a likely date with No. 1-seed Xavier on Sunday.

“I felt pretty confident, but, until you see it, it’s pretty nerve-wracking for anyone,” said Mann, who gathered with his teammates at coach Leonard Hamilton’s house to watch the show.

“It was amazing. Everybody was happy. (There were) a lot of nerves in the beginning, especially when Creighton came up on the screen, then it was Duke after that. … Last year, we were one of the last names to be called.”

For Mann and the rest of FSU’s veterans, a second straight trip to the Big Dance is especially gratifying.

The Seminoles lost their top three scorers from last year’s tournament team to the NBA, which led several college hoops pundits to leave FSU out of their early bracket projections.

Fast-forward a few months, and it’s Mann, seniors Braian Angola and Phil Cofer and sophomores Trent Forrest and C.J. Walker having the last laugh.

“I don’t want to brag or anything,” Mann said. “But it’s a satisfying feeling to know we’re headed back after a lot of people doubted us.”

The Seminoles have some big-picture history to be proud of, too.

FSU’s visit to the tournament is its sixth under Hamilton, as well as its sixth in a 10-year span. Florida State has had plenty of good basketball moments in its history, including a national runner-up finish in 1972, two Elite Eight runs (1972, 1993) and, of course, an ACC tournament championship in 2012.

But, before Sunday night, Florida State basketball had never made six NCAA tournaments in 10 years.

“I realize that that’s a positive from a program standpoint,” Hamilton said.

Then, in his next breath, the 16-year head coach laughed and said, “But I’m not real sure that’s going to have anything to do with the game.”

Speaking of which, Florida State will be in for a bit of a mystery when it faces the Tigers. Friday’s game marks just the fourth all-time meeting between the two schools, and first since 1980.

This year’s Tigers, coached by Cuonzo Martin, finished 20-12 and 10-8 in Southeastern Conference play, and they share only one common opponent with FSU – Florida, which beat Missouri, 77-75, in January.

Things get murky, however, with the addition of Michael Porter Jr., the freshman forward who is considered one of the top prospects for the 2018 NBA draft.

Porter injured his back and Missouri’s season opener and missed the next 30 games. He returned to action in last week’s SEC tournament and had 12 points and eight rebounds in a 62-60 loss to Georgia.

While Porter showed some signs of rust, Hamilton expects that he’ll be sharp by Friday.

“It’s a little more challenging (to prepare for Missouri) than you would normally expect because of that fact,” Hamilton said. “For us to know exactly what to expect from him is virtually impossible. We have to go with (the idea of) regardless of who you’re playing, they will have a great player at this point.”

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin also announced Sunday night that senior Jordan Barnett, the team’s second-leading scorer, would be suspended for Friday’s game due to a legal incident. Barnett averages 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

“He’s suspended as we speak,” Martin told reporters. “He won’t play Friday.”

Throughout tournament history, 8-9 games have been a virtual coin flip, with the No. 8 seed winning 51 percent of the time (67-65 all-time).

But while the eighth-seeded Tigers are making their first tournament appearance since 2013 – and looking for their first win since 2010 – FSU has seven players with tournament experience. And all of them know what it feels like to win a game in the Big Dance, having done so against Florida Gulf Coast a year ago.

“(We) learned a lot,” Mann said. “Especially the mentality of what you need to go into it and how to prepare.

“We learned a lot last year, and we’re going to bring it into this year.”

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