TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – The Florida State men’s basketball team began the week on the periphery of the national conversation surrounding its sport.
Six days later, the Seminoles might be on the verge of becoming the talk of college hoops world.
As of Saturday afternoon, FSU is 8-0 and one of only seven remaining undefeated teams in the country. The Seminoles picked up the crown jewel of their early-season resume on Monday, when they went to Gainesville and throttled No. 5 Florida, 83-66, then returned home for a 96-71 victory over Loyola with new football coach Willie Taggart sitting courtside.
After beginning the season without much buzz – most pundits thought the Seminoles were due for a downswing after losing their top three scorers from a year ago – FSU should find itself back in the national polls when they’re released next week.
That’s assuming, of course, that handle business against Tulane on Sunday (noon, ESPNU). FSU will meet the Green Wave as part of the Heritage Insurance Classic at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
“It definitely feels good to show everybody what we’ve got,” junior forward Terance Mann said. “We’ve been telling people since early on, and everyone was dismissive of it because we lost so much from last year. But we always believed in ourselves and we’re going to continue do what we do to prove people wrong.”
With Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes all no longer in the mix, coach Leonard Hamilton said during preseason camp that the Seminoles would likely rely on a number of players to lead them in any given night.
So far, Hamilton has been right.
Consider that, through eight games, the Seminoles have had six different leading scorers. Mann, Mfiondu Kabengele, M.J. Walker, C.J. Walker, Phil Cofer and Braian Angola have all topped the box score, with only Mann and Angola doing it more than once.
Even better, each player brings a little something different to the attack. M.J. Walker and Angola have done damage from 3-point range, C.J. Walker and Mann have been effective at driving to the basket and Cofer has proven himself to be a matchup nightmare – a 6-8, 218-pound forward who shoots better than 46 percent from distance.
It makes for a versatile team that’s tough to defend and, as its record shows, thus far impossible to beat.
“Teams can’t tell who is our leading scorer and try to lock in on them, because everybody else is scoring the ball really well right now,” C.J. Walker said.
“It’s fun,” Mann said, “because you never know who it’s going to be. Everyone feels ready. And if one person isn’t ready, the next guy is going to be.”
FSU’s meeting with Tulane will be a reunion of old Metro Conference foes – the two programs have met 35 times, but Sunday’s game will be the first since 1995.
Mann said that the Green Wave runs an “NBA-style” offense that shoots a lot of 3-pointers, and that the Seminoles will need to maintain the drive and focus that got them to this point if they’re to improve to 9-0.
“We’ve just got to stay focused,” Walker added. “When we start winning games like that, teams start looking at us like we’re one of those better teams in the country.
“So we’ve got a target on our backs. We’ve got to come out playing harder, playing more physical.”