This year’s iteration of the Florida State basketball team now finds itself in uncharted territory.
For as talented as the Seminoles are and how much they overachieved relative to preseason expectations, no one on this year’s roster has ever played in a single NCAA Tournament game.
This coming in a regional where FSU’s first round opponent, FGCU, as well as both of the teams the Seminoles could encounter in the second round, Maryland and Xavier, have made recent appearances in March Madness. Each of the three programs were in last year’s field of 68 and are making at least their third appearance since 2013. For Florida State, however, it’s the first appearance since 2012.
“We are going to have to learn very quickly,” sophomore Terance Mann said. “Learn how to act like we have been here before.”
“We’ve just got to work together and stay connected as a team. That’s something we have always built upon,” freshman point guard C.J. Walker added. “I think we are going to be ready even though it’s the first time with everybody being here.
Perhaps because of FSU’s inexperience in postseason play or because of the Seminoles’ inconsistency away from the Donald L. Tucker Center, Florida State has been put on upset alert from a number of different outlets ahead of Thursday’s matchup.
“Keep proving them wrong,” Mann said of the upset picks. “Winning solves everything.”
Many of the players pointed to the fact that, although it may be all of their first times competing in the NCAA Tournament, the FSU coaching staff has been in this situation before.
“We’ve just got to rely on our coaching staff. The coaches that have been in this situation before,” Xavier Rathan-Mayes said. “We have to learn from what they are telling us, rely on some of those things, take those things into the game, and execute the gameplan that they have given us.”
“One thing the coaches have been preaching to us is staying in the moment,” freshman Trent Forrest shared. “Just focus right now.”
For Hamilton, it is the ninth NCAA Tournament appearance of his career, eight of which he has been alongside longtime assistant Stan Jones. Over those eight prior appearances, Hamilton boasts a 6-7 (.461) career record in the NCAA Tournament with a chance to improve to .500 with a win on Thursday.
Some FSU players, though, don’t view the postseason inexperience as a negative at all, instead dwelling on the positive.
“I don’t feel like it’s a disadvantage,” Braian Angola-Rodas said. “I feel like it’s a great opportunity to show the world what Florida State really is.”
Florida State begins its NCAA Tournament campaign Thursday evening with a scheduled start time of somewhere between 9:20 and 10 PM.