Jan. 13, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- They may be a "typical North Carolina team" but it will be anything but a typical college basketball game inside the Donald L. Tucker Center on Saturday.
Florida State and UNC will tip-off at 2 p.m. after ESPN College Gameday airs live from inside the building earlier in the morning. The college-basketball world will have its eyes on Tallahassee and the sold-out game will be electric -- all the makings for the best atmosphere the Seminoles will have played in all season.
But FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who referred to the No. 3 Tar Heels (15-2, 2-0 ACC) as that "typical North Carolina team" because of its usual dominance, has been preparing his team for this Atlantic Coast Conference showdown by making sure their focus is strictly on what's taking place on the basketball court.
"The fact that it's Gameday, adds to the hoopla and the festive atmosphere," Hamilton said. "We hope that excites our fans and they can become more of that sixth man in the stands. That's what we are hopeful of but we still need to maintain the focus and keep things in perspective and not get too sidetracked with the peripheral."
If the 'Noles (9-2, 1-1) are going to knock off North Carolina, senior center Bernard James likely has to have another big game.
James played the best game of his career in the Seminoles' win over Virginia Tech earlier in the week. His 18 points tied a career high and his 15 rebounds were the most he had ever grabbed in an FSU uniform.
"[Bernard]'s working very hard to try to make a difference," Hamilton said. "Hopefully his leadership will stimulate his teammates to move in the same direction."
Prior to the game against the Hokies, James was averaging just 10 points and eight rebounds per contest and had only scored in double figures three times all year. If FSU wants to survive the ACC schedule and make another deep run into March it needs James to be at his best.
"My coaches have been challenging me the last couple days leading up to that game," James said. "They've still be challenging me just to play with more energy [and] to motivate my teammates more. I just went out trying to give as much energy as I could. Trying to be an energy giver instead of an energy taker for our team."
James and the rest of Florida State's post players have the task of controlling UNC big men Tyler Zeller and John Henson, who stand 7-feet and 6-foot-11, respectively.
Henson and Zeller average a combined 29.1 points per game.
"Both those guys are really good players in their own rights," James said. "They both do different things and their games compliment each other. So whatever two bigs we have on the court at that time we are going to have to be working in perfect sync to handle those two guys."
The Zeller-Henson duo is two parts of the three-headed monster that is Carolina's offense.
All-America candidate Harrison Barnes' 16.9 points per game leads a team that ranks No. 1 among 228 Division 1 men's basketball programs with 87.8 points per outing. UNC's 21.3 average scoring margin also ranks fourth nationally.
It will be a contrast of styles on Saturday as FSU ranks fifth nationally in field-goal percentage defense.
"I'm sure they are going to play their style of ball and be who they are and we've got to play our style of ball and try to play within ourselves as well," Hamilton said. "I'm not real sure they are necessarily trying to speed us up [and] I'm not real sure we are trying to slow them down. What we are trying to do is play the way we have to play in order for us to be successful and give us the best chance to win and I'm sure they are going to do the same thing."
Fans that wish to be in attendance during the filming of ESPN College Gameday can do so free of charge. The doors to the Donald L. Tucker Center open at 8:30 so get there early if you want to be on camera.