GAME NOTES: Florida State aims to build on its history-making run to the ACC Tournament championship, as second-round play in the East Region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament continues with the third-seeded Seminoles taking on the No. 14 seed St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
Florida State is back in the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive year, but in dramatically different fashion having captured the program’s first-ever ACC tournament title. The Seminoles finished 12-4 in league play and earned a solid No. 3 seed in the conference tournament behind perennial ACC powerhouses Duke and North Carolina. As it were, the Seminoles took down both schools en route to the crown. After beginning its quest with a thumping of Miami-Florida in the quarterfinals, FSU sent the Blue Devils packing in the semis with a 62-59 victory, and then toppled the Tar Heels, 85-82, in the title match. Florida State posted an impressive 24-9 record overall and didn’t save its theatrics just for the postseason, with wins against Duke and UNC during the regular season as well. The Seminoles also logged league victories against fellow tournament teams NC State and Virginia, twice. However, FSU also dropped each of its four non-conference matchups versus NCAA teams in Florida, Michigan State, Harvard and Connecticut.
This is Florida State’s 14th overall appearance in the Big Dance with a 14-13 ledger. The Seminoles reached the Sweet 16 last year, where it fell victim to VCU’s Cinderella run to the Final Four. FSU’s best finish in this event came as runner-up to UCLA in 1972. The ‘Noles also reached the Elite Eight in 1993 and have made four appearances in the Sweet 16.
St. Bonaventure makes its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2000 after capping an improbable run to secure the program’s first-ever Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship. The Bonnies went 10-6 in league play and received the No. 4 seed for the tourney, plowing through Saint Joseph’s and UMass to get to the title tilt where it unseated third-seeded Xavier, 67-56. St. Bonaventure wound up 20-11 overall but failed to beat any of the other A-10 teams (Temple, Saint Louis, Xavier) in the tournament during the regular season. The Bonnies took on a pair of other NCAA participants during its non- conference slate, defeating MAAC champion Loyola-Maryland and losing to NC State.
St. Bonaventure lost in the opening round to Kentucky as a 12-seed in its last NCAA foray in 2000. The Bonnies’ history in this event includes a trip to the Final Four in 1970 and three Sweet 16 appearances, though the last was in ’70. Overall, St. Bonaventure holds a 6-7 mark in six tournament appearances.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs on the hardwood.
The Seminoles have proved to be as deep as any team in the tournament this year with high number of minutes coming from up and down the roster. First and foremost for the ‘Noles is junior Michael Snaer, who developed a knack for coming up with huge plays this season and he leads the club with 14.5 ppg. Many of Snaer’s theatrics have come from beyond the arc where he shoots 42.1 percent with a team-leading 64 threes. In addition, his .846 free-throw percentage is second in the ACC. Senior Bernard James also serves as a main cog in FSU’s success, averaging 10.5 ppg on an incredible 60.9 percent shooting while posting a team-best 8.2 boards and 2.3 blocks. Sophomore Ian Miller has come on of late and gives the Seminoles three players averaging double-digit scoring at 10.9 ppg. The depth continues down the roster with Okaro White (7.8 ppg) and Xavier Gibson (7.0 ppg). The pair both shoots better than 47.5 percent from the field and impacts the rebounding game as well, posting 4.3 and 4.4 rpg, respectively. Deividas Dulkys stands second on the team in three-point shooting with 46 on 37.7 percent efficiency, and adds 6.9 ppg, while Luke Loucks dishes 4.3 assists per game to rank third in the conference. All those contributions equal up to 70.3 ppg for the Seminoles, who shoot a solid 45.8 percent from the floor. However, it’s the defense that Florida State relies on most. The ‘Noles yield a stingy 62.9 ppg and a league- low .381 field goal percentage, fifth-best in the country. The Seminoles have an above-average rebounding game with a plus-3.4 margin, with Snaer adding 3.8 rpg to the mix. In addition, FSU ranks seventh in the nation in blocked shots, swatting 5.9 per game, and topped the ACC in steals per game with 7.6.
The Bonnies certainly have the numbers to back up their success despite being labeled a longshot for an Atlantic 10 title. St. Bonaventure puts up a solid 70.7 ppg and shoots an efficient 45.8 percent from the field. The defense complements those numbers in holding the opposition to 65.0 ppg and a .416 shooting percentage. A-10 Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson drives the Bonnies’ offense, pouring in a league-best 18.4 ppg while grabbing 8.5 rpg — good for second in the A-10. The senior also ranks third in the conference in field goal percentage (.576) and averages 2.0 blocks. Junior Demetrius Conger backs that effort with solid numbers of his own, carrying a 12.1-point average, 6.1 boards and a .506 field goal percentage. The duo tends to shoulder much of the scoring load, but the Bonnies also get quality minutes from senior Da’Quan Cook (7.6 ppg) and sophomore Matthew Wright (7.0 ppg). The former chips in 4.6 rpg while Wright leads the team in three-point shooting with 40 treys on 31.7 percent accuracy. The Bonnies manage an above-average effort in the rebounding department, sitting atop the A-10 with a plus-5.5 margin. SBU does particularly well at the free-throw line, draining 76.0 percent of its attempts to rank 16th in the country.
Florida State is on perhaps the biggest high in program history coming off its ACC Tournament title, and considering the way it was won. Beating Duke and North Carolina in back-to-back games on that kind of stage is nothing to scoff at. St. Bonaventure was put on notice the instant the matchup was announced and will have to bring its best to the table in hopes of moving on.