March 14, 2011
By Rob Wilson
Associate AD for Communications
Florida State would return to the NCAA Tournament field after just a one-year absence in 1990-91, but it sure did not look like that was a possibility early on. FSU’s record stood at 5-5 when head coach Pat Kennedy inserted then reserve quarterback Charlie Ward into the starting lineup at point guard and the Seminoles won 12 of the final 17 games.
Ironically, the 1990-91 season would be FSU’s last in the basketball rich Metro Conference. Ironic because the Seminoles had never won the Metro Tournament but bid the conference adieu with a stunning comeback over Louisville.
The Seminoles had become sort of the popular team in college basketball that year and it appeared the NCAA Committee agreed when they put FSU in the familiar confines of Louisville’s Freedom Hall to begin the ’91 NCAA Tournament.
No one quibbled with the first round opponent USC, but Kennedy and the rest of the FSU staff rolled their collective eyes when they saw that Indiana was the potential second round matchup. It didn’t occur to most of us just how geographically close Louisville was to Bloomington, but we would find out soon that it was just 105 miles and boy did the Hoosiers travel.
Florida State and USC battled like crazy in the first round game with the Seminoles coming on at the end for a 75-72 win that propelled them into the second round. And the Seminole locker room was justifiably jubilant only to have the celebration come to a near hush as players and coaches alike tried to figure out what a roaring sound pounding through the hallways could be. We would learn shortly that Bobby Knight and Indiana had taken the floor and to say the crowd was partisan would be a monumental understatement.
Just how daunting the game against the Hoosiers would be was revealed the next day when FSU arrived for the NCAA mandated “open” practice in Freedom Hall. At almost all venues, the “open” practice is only attended by a gaggle of media members and maybe a couple of hundred diehard fans. But as the Seminoles came up the tunnel to the court for PRACTICE, the stands were filled – and I mean filled – with 20,000 Indiana fans wearing more red and white than your family Christmas tree. They politely booed missed layups in the warm-up line, kept stats on players during shooting drills and reacted to every little nuance on the court. It was like having your parents in the seats behind you at the movies on your first date!
We didn’t handle the crowd much better the next day and the fourth-ranked Hoosiers “snuck” by us 85-74.