TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Start spreading the news.
The Florida State men’s basketball team, 4-0 and ranked No. 25 in the country, is headed to New York, where it will look to continue its hot start in the NIT Season Tip-off.
The Seminoles will face Temple on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They’ll then meet either Illinois or West Virginia at a time to be determined on Friday.
“There’s no doubt that it’s an early test for us,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “But that’s kind of what we need. That’s the league we’re in (the ACC), where every night out you’re having a test.”
Part of that test will be playing away from home for this first time this season.
The Seminoles have done just fine inside the Donald L. Tucker Center, where they’ve outscored their opponents by an average of more than 20 points per game.
But, although it’s a neutral-site game, Thursday will mark the first time on the road for newcomers like Jonathan Isaac, Trent Forrest and CJ Walker.
“It’s hard to tell them what to expect,” junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said. “You can only tell them so much. They’ve got to kind of experience it for themselves. … But I think they’re going to do a great job of getting the job done. They’re a mature group of young guys and we expect a lot from them.”
The Seminoles expect to have a little fun, too.
The Barclays Center is the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and is the newest arena in the league.
The arena’s size and sight lines aren’t typical of a usual college basketball venue and will take some getting used to, but the Seminoles are looking forward to playing there.
“It’s a stage that we all dream of playing on,” Rathan-Mayes said. “So to be able to get out there and play with our team in an arena like that is going to be a fun time for us.”
FSU will meet a Temple team that made the 2016 NCAA tournament but is off to a 2-2 start with losses to New Hampshire and Massachusetts this season.
The Owls are paced by junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who leads the team in scoring (20.8 points per game) and rebounding (8.5 rebounds per game).
“Playing against a high-caliber opponent, on the road in a neutral-court environment, (with a) legendary coach, a system that’s been very successful and a team that just won their conference championship last year will be a challenge for us. There’s no doubt about that,” Hamilton said.
“But it’s more about us right now. It’s about us trying to be consistent with being who we are, playing with a high level of energy.”
If the Seminoles can get past the Owls, they could be in line for a date with the West Virginia Mountaineers, who are off to a 3-0 start and ranked 17th in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll.
That would make for a top-25 matchup in New York, and a perfect opportunity for the Seminoles to show the college basketball world that things are different this year.
“I think it’s about time we hit the road,” sophomore forward Terance Mann said, “and showed the rest of the country what we can do.”