Matt Poindexter is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s Duke-Florida State game in Durham.
Before the season started, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi pegged Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State team as an 8-seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Then talented Seminole forward Terrance Shannon suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and a 5-0 start was followed up by a 4-6 stretch that featured an inexplicable home loss to Princeton and a blowout loss at Clemson to start ACC play. A week into January, the team that many expected to sit near the top of the ACC was instead 9-6, with their best victory a home win against Central Florida. The Seminoles have some more impressive wins today. First, FSU handed North Carolina by giving the Heels one of the worst beatings of the Roy Williams era, leading for all but the first 39 seconds of the game and winning 90-57. Then, a week after beating UNC, FSU’s Michael Snaer hit a last-second shot to snap Duke’s 45-game winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Why the sudden change?
According to Hamilton, the drastic improvement over the past few games is due to more experience and better point guard play. In his postgame press conference on Saturday, Hamilton said that many were confusing his team’s age with experience. Though already 26 years old, star forward Bernard James’ pre-Seminole basketball experience consisted of a few years as an enlisted member of the United States Air Force and one season at Tallahassee (FL) Community College. Many of James’ teammates are also upperclassmen, but played limited minutes behind Derwin Kitchen and Chris Singleton until this season. His juniors and seniors, Hamilton feels, are only now catching up on court time.