TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State men’s basketball team this fall will host marquee matchups against rival Florida and Big Ten foe Minnesota, and it will hit the road for games in Brooklyn, N.Y., Washington, D.C., and Sunrise, Fla.
It’s all part of a 2016-17 non-conference schedule that could see the Seminoles play as many as three teams that made last year’s NCAA tournament, as well as the NIT champions.
The Seminoles released their full non-conference slate on Monday.
“We have worked very hard to put together a non-conference schedule that will challenge our players and prepare us for our ACC schedule,” said FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton, who is set to enter his 15th season at the helm in Tallahassee. “Our schedule includes teams that will compete for conference championships and for very high seeds in the postseason.”
FSU begins the campaign on Nov. 12 with a home game against Charleston Southern, the first of four games in eight days inside the Donald L. Tucker Center. The Seminoles will host Metro Atlantic champion Iona on Nov. 15, then play a pair of preseason NIT games against opponents to be determined.
The Seminoles will then spend Thanksgiving in the Big Apple, where they’ll join West Virginia, Temple and Illinois for the later round of the Preseason NIT at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Pairings for the tournament have yet to be announced, but WVU and Temple each made the NCAA tournament a year ago. The tournament will also offer FSU a chance to get familiar with the Barclays Center, which will host the ACC tournament in March.
After that, the Seminoles will make a quick stop at home for a meeting against Minnesota in the ACC/Big Ten challenge before heading north again to play George Washington in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
The Colonials capped off last season with a victory over Valparaiso in the NIT championship game.
FSU then returns to Tallahassee for three straight home games – against Southern Mississippi on Dec. 6, against Nicholls State on Dec. 8 and against Florida on Dec. 11.
The Seminoles are looking for their third straight win over the Gators, having triumphed with a pair of late, dramatic victories in each of the last two seasons. In their last meeting, FSU star Dwayne Bacon hit a mid-range jumper with less than five seconds on the clock to lift the Seminoles to a 73-71 win, their first in Gainesville since 2007.
A date against Manhattan in the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise and a home against Samford on Dec. 19 round out the non-conference schedule.
“We will play in the Preseason NIT against a field that includes West Virginia, Temple and Illinois – in an event considered one the toughest early season tournaments in college basketball and against George Washington who won the NIT in 2016,” Hamilton said. “We will play Florida, which will be a top team in the SEC, the defending champion from the MAAC (Iona) and Minnesota at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. And that’s all before we start ACC play.
“The ACC had one team play for the national championship, two teams in the Final Four and four teams that advanced to the Elite Eight and every team in our league has improved.”
The Seminoles enter the season with high hopes thanks to the return of leading scorer and rebounder Dwayne Bacon (15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and veteran playmaker Xavier Rathan-Mayes (11.8 PPG, 4.4 APG). FSU also welcomed another highly-regarded recruiting class, which features high school All-American Jonathan Isaac as well as standouts CJ Walker, Trent Forest and Mfiondu Kabengale.
“We won 20 games with a young and inexperienced team a year ago,” Hamilton said. “We defeated three teams that advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament – Syracuse, Virginia and Notre Dame – and we feel this schedule will prepare us for ACC play.”