TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton likes to keep his players focused on themselves rather than their opponents in the belief that, if they do what they’re supposed to, the opponent won’t matter much.
That will likely hold true when the Seminoles host Nicholls State on Thursday (9 p.m., ESPNU).
With a 4-4 record and a No. 80 ranking in the NCAA RPI, Nicholls State is usually handled with relative ease by most major conference opponents. But the Colonels are catching FSU on its third game in five days, which Hamilton expects to be a challenge for a team that leans so heavily on first- and second-year players.
It’s part of a four-game gauntlet that started Sunday at George Washington, continued Monday at home against Southern Mississippi and then wraps up Sunday when rival Florida visits Tallahassee.
“It’s difficult,” junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said. “But I think we’re growing. We’re maturing at a high level. We’re doing a great job in that area. Practices aren’t going to be physically taxing this week. It’s a lot more mental and really focusing on the little details.”
The Seminoles, 8-1 after topping Southern Miss, 98-49, on Monday, have had a busy start to the season.
They had four games in nine days to begin the campaign, then they followed up with back-to-back contests against Temple and Illinois in the NIT Tip-Off.
Three days later, FSU was back at it in a home game against Minnesota. All told, the Seminoles have played nine games in just 24 days.
By contrast, last year’s team didn’t play its ninth game until Dec. 16 – twenty-nine days after its season-opener.
Which is why when Hamilton preaches the importance of depth, he really means it.
“It’s very critical,” he said. “You can’t physically hold up under that type of challenge and give the effort that you need to give without becoming fatigued at some point. Hopefully the quality of our depth will keep people fresher.”
It has so far.
Nine players have appeared all nine games for FSU, with two more – freshman Jonathan Isaac and junior Phil Cofer – having missed the last two because of minor injuries.
Throw in junior-college transfer P.J. Savoy, who recently returned after missing FSU’s first six games, and the Seminoles can roll 12 deep, if needed.
“It’s big,” sophomore Terance Mann said. “Because dudes get tired, and you have a dude coming in right behind you with just as much energy.”
As a result, the Seminoles are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season, and they can match that 9-1 start with a win over Nicholls State on Thursday.
FSU has three more games before beginning conference play against Wake Forest on Dec. 28.
“We have a goal and it’s to go into ACC play 12-1,” Rathan-Mayes said. “That’s what we’re focusing on right now.”