The Florida State Seminoles basketball program has made it to its fourth Sweet 16 appearance in school history, and if they could have it their way they’d like to keep on dancing.
While they boast a phenomenal underdog story: a double-digit seeding, their star player recovering from foot surgery to make it to the tournament, and a 26-year-old junior who has served three tours in the Middle East for the Air Force, they still aren’t considered the best story coming into the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
That title is designated for the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams who received their ticket through one of two new spots created as a “First Four” game.
Star guard Bradford Burgess of VCU was convinced that his team wasn’t even going to make it into the Tourney, and head coach Shaka Smart didn’t even hold a Selection Sunday watch party for fear of not hearing their name called.
But here VCU sits, as favorites heading into tonight's game against the Seminoles from Florida State.
They’ll have a tough matchup tonight at 10 o’clock Eastern, but to look at it realistically, the ‘Noles should have the edge.
Team captain and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Singleton will be back at full-strength after suffering a broken foot in early February, and to have you’re leading rebounder and scorer back on the court has got to pump the Seminoles bench up.
Singleton is coming off his best two practices this week since breaking his foot, and his defensive prowess will be on full attack tonight in San Antonio.
But of course, it’s not wise to overlook your opponent.
“We’ve got to take VCU just as serious as we would Kansas or Duke or any other team. They made it this far,” sophomore guard Mike Snaer recently told ESPN.com.
The Seminoles (23-10) have the defensive edge coming into this game, leading the nation in opposing field goal percentage and holding their first two tournament opponents, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, to a combined 31 percent from the floor.
But it’s their offensive game that needs to come out strong tonight.
Big men like former Air Force lieutenant Bernard James, Xavier Gibson and Jon Kreft all need to lock down the offensive boards and turn boards into points.
Three-point sharp shooter Deividas Dulkys will need to have a strong showing, and make a sturdy case to support his .350 percentage from behind the arc.
Strong play from Coach Leonard Hamilton’s bench will also be needed if they want to defy many basketball experts and get past VCU.
Role players like Okaro White, Terrance Shannon, Luke Loucks and most importantly, freshman surprise Ian Miller will also all need to put it together on the offensive side if the ‘Noles want to get rolling early on.
While many analysts in the sporting world continue to ride the VCU bandwagon, this game could ultimately come down to how well FSU plays offensively.
The defense will be a lock to play spectacular ball, but it’s FSU’s offense that we should be most worried about
I’m not totally counting out VCU, but if the ‘Noles do lose; it will be all on them.
It should be a tough matchup tonight and one of the best games of the tournament, but the Seminoles should have this one in the bag because it’s the ‘Noles time to shine.
Christopher Howland is a Correspondent and intern here on Bleacher Report.
He attends The Florida State University majoring in English and Communication.
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