Screw stats, it's all about toughness.
Typically, I spend my time here at Tomahawk Nation using reason. I understand X's and O's, and I understand statistics, and I think - on the whole - it positions me well to head the basketball coverage. In doing so I usually present and argument, and then I present my defense for that argument. In other words, I don't defend positions without being convinced that those positions are worth defending. And I have data to back up those positions.
Call it the Bud effect. All the sports here at TN are covered without bias. We're not here to be cheerleaders. Our emotional attachment to the sport we love is separate from our ability to cover that sport - at least that's the idea.
So it might seem strange that I'm using today's preview space to talk about toughness and togetherness. I am eschewing Ken Pomeroy and John Gassaway in favor of Dick Vitale and Mike DeCourcy.
One of the things which makes Coach Hamilton a successful college coach is that he consistently gets kids to play harder and more unselfishly than their opponents. And with seven new guys in the rotation the mental attitude was a skill to be taught the same way the staff had to teach flare screens and proper ball reversals. So the low point of the season - for me - was when the team seemed to quit during the Miami game. They were getting rolled and they stopped giving 100% effort.
After that game the veterans let the new guys know what was what. Not knowing the X's and O's was one thing. Not giving everything for your teammates was another. That wasn't okay.
Since then FSU has ground out wins against Maryland and Georgia Tech, and those two games were sandwiched around a blowout loss to Duke. In that Duke game though, the players never quit. Bodies were hitting the floor with under 4 minutes left in a 25-point game.
If there's hope of this team making a 5th consecutive NCAA Tournament, how tough and together they are is going to have as big an impact as how well they execute the sets.
Today's opponent is Wake Forest (10-12, 3-7). Things aren't going very well in Winston-Salem. But this is a dangerous team, especially at home where they have wins over Xavier, Virginia, and NC State.
They're essentially a two-man team with 6-3 senior CJ Harris, and 6-7 junior Travis McKie. They are both averaging 14.5 per game, and they're both efficient. Harris is a 40% 3-point shooter. McKie is one of the best inside-out guys in the conference. The rest of the minutes go to six freshmen and a sophomore.
The Noles have a chance to get closer to their goal of a top-4 seed in the ACC Tourney. Right now they're a game behind Virginia and North Carolina who are tied in 3rd, but UNC travels to Miami today and the Hoos travel to Maryland tomorrow. There's a good chance FSU moves into a tie with at least one of them with a win. And considering FSU has played the most difficult ACC schedule while UNC and Virginia have played the two easiest, being tied over half way through is a good position.
To get there, to reach their goals, 40 minutes of effort and focus is required of every player, every game.
The game tips at Noon and will be broadcast on ESPN2. FSU is a 2-point favorite in Vegas and Pomeroy has FSU -1.