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Best men’s basketball player in Florida State history: Elite 8

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Will Toney Douglas or Al Thornton be celebrating?

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

The Sweet 16 voting saw chalk rule the day, with seven of the players advancing to the Elite 8 holding a one or two seed. The exception to the rule is Sam Cassell, as the 4-seed sprang the upset on legendary forward Dave Fedor. I don’t know if this means the selection committee did a brilliant job with the seeding, or if we collectively continue to overlook the careers of stars of yesteryear such as Fedor and Reggie Royals. Either way, here we are.

Here’s a few notes on the remaining bracket:

  • Trent Forrest and Terance Mann both lost to 1-seeds, meaning not a single player is left from the most successful 10-year stretch in FSU history (2011-2020). This is a true testament to the depth and selfless culture that Leonard Hamilton has built—not to mention the current staff’s coaching acumen.
  • Pat Kennedy coached three of the Elite Eight players, the most of any coach. In fact, all three of them played together on the 1992 and 1993 teams. Part of me hypothesizes this is a product of our voting community skewing toward people who attended FSU/became fans between 1988 and 1998. But it also highlights the incredible talent on those early 90s teams...as well as the lack of depth and execution that be-felled those teams in critical games. In a way, that era of FSU hoops was the opposite of the current era.
  • There is another set of teammates in the bracket, with Toney Douglas and Al Thornton playing together on the 2007 team that many feel was robbed of a deep March run by the committee giving zero weight to Douglas’ mid-season broken hand (over-reliance on the RPI at that time didn’t help). FSU went 21-8 with Douglas in the lineup and 1-5 without him.
  • 5 of the 8 guys rank in the top 10 for career points. Dave Cowens (11th), Ron King (24th), and Sam Cassell (27th) are the three who fall outside the top 10, though all three played fewer than 80 games.
  • 10 of the top 20 highest scoring individual seasons are represented by this collective group, with Cassell, King, and Sura both having two top 20 seasons.
  • Only two of the top 10 rebounders in school history are part of this group (Dave Cowens and Doug Edwards) and none of the top 5 assist-men are in the Elite 8. Not hard to see what voters valued most—putting the ball in the basket. Though it should be noted that the two highest single-season steals totals are represented with Cassell (97) and Douglas (90), respectively.
  • From Cowens in the 60s, to Mickey Dillard in the 80s, to Douglas and Thornton in the 2000s, five decades of FSU basketball are represented.

The Sweet 16 article turned into a 4,000 word opus that detailed just about every noteworthy part of these illustrious careers. So for this one, my goal was to let videos do the talking. A picture is worth 1000 words, right, so how many is a highlight reel worth?

Unfortunately, not all these guys played in an era with bountiful television options, but I did my best. If any of y’all want to add links in the comment section to videos I didn’t find, please do so liberally.

And now to the voting!

Hugh Durham Regional:

No. 1 Bob Sura vs No. 2 Doug Edwards

Bob Sura - Sura scored 34 points on three different occasions in the 1993 season (one in an ACC game against Maryland), but I couldn’t find footage of any of them. And pretty much all the footage from 1994 and 1995 are games of Sura putting up huge stats...and FSU getting smashed. Those are never fun to watch. But while the point total is a bit lower, here’s a classic stat-stuffing game from Sura when he recorded 17 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, and a block against the seventh-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Seminoles’ 1993 Sweet 16 overtime win.

The video starts early in the first half with 4 quick points from Sura, including a sweet reverse jam.

Doug Edwards - In the second round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament, the third-seeded Seminoles faced Alonzo Mourning and the sixth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas out in Boise, Idaho. Edwards carried FSU with a monster double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds, to go along with 3 steals and 2 blocks, helping the ‘Noles overcome a double digit deficit and the absence of point-guard Charlie Ward (injured in the first round) to win 78-68.

We pick up the action with FSU down 53-43 with about 10 minutes to go in the game.

Poll

No. 1 Bob Sura vs No. 2 Doug Edwards

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    No. 1 Bob Sura
    (324 votes)
  • 22%
    No. 2 Doug Edwards
    (92 votes)
416 votes total Vote Now

Joe Williams Regional:

No. 1 Toney Douglas vs No. 2 Al Thornton

Toney Douglas - Like Sura, Douglas had multiple 30 point games that I could not find footage of. But here’s a couple different looks of Douglas’ fantastic game against the top ranked (and eventual national champion) North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2009 ACC Tournament Semifinals. Douglas willed FSU to a 73-70 victory with 27 points (including the go ahead free throws), 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Here are the final five and a half minutes of the game:

And here’s some great interview footage and commentary from Douglas, Hamilton, Gene Deckerhoff, and more:

Al Thornton - I found shockingly little footage of Thornton. It’s hard to believe how just 10 years after he played, virtually any game can be found online, often in a helpful condensed package. I thought surely some Duke fan would have put up the 2006 OT thriller between the Seminoles and Blue Devils, where Duke pulled out a 1-point home win, but Thornton went for 37 and 15. Couldn’t find it. Nothing from his 45 point performance against Miami in 2007 either. So here’s what I’ve got:

An incredibly grainy clip of Thornton posterizing all 7-feet of Wisconsin’s Brian Butch. (Thornton is the guy on the bottom of the screen jumping right over a tall man’s head and then hanging on the rim:

And Thornton making two game clinching free throws in FSU’s 2006 upset of number 1 Duke:

Poll

No. 1 Toney Douglas vs No. 2 Al Thornton

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    No. 1 Toney Douglas
    (244 votes)
  • 42%
    No. 2 Al Thornton
    (179 votes)
423 votes total Vote Now

Stan Jones Regional:

No. 4 Sam Cassell vs No. 2 Ron King

Sam Cassell - Cassell can be seen making plays in both of the early 90s NCAA Tournament games posted above. You could also check out this video of Cassell orchestrating a 94-63 demolition of 11-seed Tulane in the second round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament. The flashy guard poured in 31 points on an NCAA Tourney record 7-7 shooting from deep, while also adding 5 rebounds and 5 assists, with 0 turnovers to boot.

But if you truly want to see the “lightning in a bottle” Cassell in all his glory, watch this 45 second stretch late in the first half of the epic battle against eventual national champ UNC in the Dean Dome. (If you have the time, the entire 1st half, and first 10 minutes of the second half is worth watching. Very reminiscent of the way FSU played against Louisville this year. Just don’t watch the final 10 minutes of the game...):

Ron King - If it was a struggle to find Thornton and Sura videos, what do you think my success rate was for the older generation? Exactly. But I was able to find a 5 minute montage of highlights from King and the Seminoles’ 1972 NCAA Tournament run. King went for 22 points and 8 rebounds against Kentucky in the Elite 8, 22 points and 5 rebounds against UNC in the Final Four, and 27 points and 6 rebounds in a close loss to UCLA in the Championship game. Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, John Wooden—how’s that for a three game stretch of coaches trying their darndest to scheme a defense to stop you?

Poll

No. 4 Sam Cassell vs No. 2 Ron King

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    No. 4 Sam Cassell
    (256 votes)
  • 39%
    No. 2 Ron King
    (170 votes)
426 votes total Vote Now

Leonard Hamilton Regional:

No. 1 Dave Cowens vs No. 2 Mickey Dillard

Dave Cowens - Cowens wasn’t on the 1972 team and FSU was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament in 1970 when he led the ‘Noles to a 23-3 record, including a 20 point, 15 rebound, 5 assist performance against Artis Gilmore and the Jacksonville Dolphins, who later play in the national championship game against UCLA. (Fun fact, the Dolphins were coached by a man who’s name dons one of the regions in this bracket). So footage was scarce.

Here’s a 68 year old Cowens straight up stroking it at halftime of a 2016 FSU game. Watch until the end!

And here’s a nice, 5 minute mini-doc on the 1969-70 team:

Mickey Dillard - There are a surprising number of 1980 Louisville games on Youtube, which makes sense given that Denny Crum’s Cardnials won the national championship that season. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any of the three games FSU played against UL that year, which is a shame since Dillard averaged 22 points, nearly 5 rebounds, and over 1 steal per game against the eventual champs. What else would you expect from the 4th leading scorer in school history, right? FSU went 0-3 against Louisville in 1980 (all single-digit losses) and 22-6 against everyone else, making the second round of 48-team NCAA tournament.

The best I could do is this video of Dillard being inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame. There’s a nice interview and some footage of him playing:

Poll

No. 1 Dave Cowens vs No. 2 Mickey Dillard

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    No. 1 Dave Cowens
    (392 votes)
  • 32%
    No. 2 Mickey Dillard
    (185 votes)
577 votes total Vote Now