Contributing writer Kevin Chupka will periodically interview a rabid student fan about all things basketball on the court and in the stands… a view from the student section.
Florida State is probably known more for its work on the gridiron than on the basketball court, but that doesn’t stop a group of basketball loving students from packing “The ‘Nole Zone” for every home game at the Donald L Tucker Center. Matthew Cullen, a senior at FSU, is the president of this rabid fan section. “The Nole Zone is home to the rowdiest, most passionate Florida State basketball fans,” he says. “The Nole Zone certainly does their collective homework,” Matthew adds, “we’re always quick to let an opponent know what we think about how their season is going.”
The Seminoles have rebounded nicely this season from their stint as the dreaded 12/5 upset victim in last year’s NCAA tournament (their first such appearance in a decade), bowing out to Wisconsin on a last minute shot in overtime. This year Cullen admits that “losses at rival Florida and in the home ACC opener to NC State were disappointing,” but they have shown flashes of greatness in knocking off rival Georgia Tech in both meetings and handing Virginia Tech one of their three conference losses this year. So what does the rest of the season hold? “Runs in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments are certainly not out of the question for this year’s squad,” Matthew thinks. But it might be easier said than done. Many analysts have just about the entire middle of the ACC on the bubble meaning FSU must jockey for position with the likes of Maryland, Clemson and Virginia; the last two of whom they are scheduled to play in the final weeks of the regular season.
So who will FSU be counting on in the home stretch? “It’s really been a well-rounded team effort,” he says, “but it’s a trio of sophomores that stand out. 7’1 center Solomon Alabi leads the team in scoring, blocks and free throw percentage, where he’s better than 82 percent. Forward Chris Singleton has really developed his game. He’s second in scoring and blocks, and brings a defensive edge with his team-leading 48 steals. I’d also throw in Devidas Dulkys, the sophomore out of Lithuania. He’s an excellent three-point shooter, as well as a great defender who is second on the team in steals.” And Matthew says the team as a whole has some work to do, namely on turnovers, “We turn the ball over too much… and often become hesitant and tentative in our play. Limiting turnovers and careful execution of the offense will be essential keys to returning to the Dance.”
Still, hopefully improvements in the final weeks of action along with sustaining what Cullen calls “our suffocating style of play” on defense, the ‘Noles very well might be dancing and looking to turn around the upset tables come late March.