March 15, 2012
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If Florida State has its way, winning the first Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in program history won't be the only crowning achievement of the 2011-12 men's basketball season.
No, the 10th-ranked Seminoles are focused on even bigger things. As in Final Four to National Championship, types of things.
But if the Seminoles (24-9), seeded No. 3 for the NCAA Tournament and in Nashville, Tenn. to start its championship quest Friday at 2:45 ET, want to accomplish such lofty goals the "one game at a time" approach has to be fully engaged.
The 'Noles simply can't afford to overlook Atlantic 10 Conference champion St. Bonaventure (20-11).
"The guys seem to have maintained the same level of focus they had going into the ACC Tournament; kind of a business-like approach," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said Thursday before his team practiced inside Bridgestone Arena. "They hold each other accountable. Lot of communication, a lot of talking."
Playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season, Florida State's focus stems from its senior-heavy lineup and experience in postseason play. FSU's players are able to talk and share with one another the various bits of knowledge that can help them succeed with the season on the line.
That communication also extends to the court -- a positive team trait that, according to senior center Bernard James, has been the spark behind the Seminoles' five-game winning streak.
"Everything that we have done right in the last four or five games has been because of communication," James said. "My team, we've reached another level of closeness. We are talking all the time on the court."
FSU's communication skills will come in handy Friday afternoon against 14th-seeded St Bonaventure and its star in the post.
Andrew Nicholson is a potential NBA first-round draft pick this year as a player that has drawn comparisons to former Wake Forest and current San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan. The reigning Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year, Nicholson led the A10 in scoring with 18.4 points per game while also grabbing 8.5 rebounds per contest.
At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Nicholson also has the ability step out and shoot 3-pointers where he shoots nearly 40 percent.
"They play through their star player," FSU associate head coach Stan Jones said.
With Nicholson the orchestrator of its offense, the Bonnies won seven of their last eight games and captured the Atlantic 10 crown with a 67-56 win over Xavier -- a team that earned a No. 10 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Despite that late-season success, few are giving St. Bonaventure a chance against the upstart and trendy Final Four-pick Seminoles.
But James begs to differ.
"These guys can play. I don't buy the whole 'Cinderella story' thing," James said. "I think that's just a little ploy to get people's guard down and have people thinking it will be an easy game and then come out and hit you in the mouth.
"We are definitely expecting that punch right out of the gate and we're going to throw one ourselves."
Tip-off is tentatively scheduled for 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS. Seminoles.com will have complete in-game and post-game coverage with a live chat during the action and then recap and video interviews after the final buzzer.