No. 4 Florida State is heading back to the Sweet 16 for the third time in their last three tournament appearances after a convincing 71-53 victory over No. 5 Colorado in the second round on Monday.
The Seminoles will face No. 1 Michigan for a berth in the East Regional Final next week in Indianapolis while the Buffaloes failed to advance out of the first weekend for the fifth time under head coach Tad Boyle and still haven't reached the Sweet 16 since 1969—when the field featured just 25 teams.
With FSU guard Anthony Polite pouring in 22 points, the Seminoles pushed their lead as high as 19 in the victory as head coach Leonard Hamilton moves his NCAA tournament record to 15-10.
He'll have an opportunity to improve that more next week as the Seminoles look to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in four years.
Anthony Polite, G, Florida State Seminoles: 22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 4 three-pointers
RaiQuan Gray, F, Florida State Seminoles: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
McKinley Wright IV, G, Colorado Buffaloes: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 turnovers
D'Shawn Schwartz, G, Colorado Buffaloes: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Seminoles Step Up After Ugly First Half
Every team that ends up making a deep run in the NCAA tournament runs into an ugly game—or at least a game it had no business winning. Florida State found itself in that position early on Monday as the first 20 minutes looked more like November basketball than March.
The Buffs and Seminoles combined for 20 turnovers and went 18-of-51 from the field.
Colorado seemed to get the worst of it, with the Buffaloes going on a stretch of two baskets in 15 possessions. And yet neither team could find separation. Florida State led by as many as seven at one point, but a last-second tip-in before the halftime buzzer cut the lead to just four.
Each team could take solace in knowing it hadn't shown its best through 20 minutes, but something would have to change dramatically for either side to correct course.
It just wouldn't come from Colorado's McKinley Wright IV, who after dishing out 13 assists with no turnovers against Georgetown in the first round found himself in early foul trouble with six points, four turnovers and no assists midway through the second half.
That helped FSU stretch its lead to as many as 19, as the Buffs struggled to find any offense with their top ball-handler unable to find his rhythm.
Polite Takes Charge
The most important aspect of winning an ugly game is making sure at least one teammate can find his rhythm.
For Florida State, that proved to be junior Anthony Polite—a Swiss native who averaged just 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists on the year.
As FSU's leading scorer M.J. Walker struggled with his shot all game (seven points), Polite made up the difference, finishing with a season-high 22 points. Polite drained four three-pointers after not sinking more than three in any game this season.
March just happened to bring out the best in him.
Only one other Seminoles player reached double figures in scoring—reserve forward Malik Osborne (11 points)—as FSU continued to grind out the win.
Hamilton and his assistants will have to hope Monday was their ugly game on a long road to the Final Four.
Florida State moves onto face No. 1 Michigan in the Sweet 16 next week. No game time has been announced as of Monday night.