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Likely locks for NCAA tourney, FSU still wants more

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State heads into its Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal test today with five wins in its last six games and designs on returning to the tourney title game a second straight season.

The Seminoles (22-8, 10-6 ACC) finished with the No. 3 seed and will play North Carolina State today after a first-round bye. Regardless of the outcome, Florida State will likely make the NCAA Tournament.

"We're very familiar with North Carolina State, but it really doesn't matter who you're playing in the ACC," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Anyone is capable of beating you."

The Seminoles, who feature fives sophomores and a freshman in Hamilton's eight-man rotation, will be looking for their first win of the season over the Wolfpack.

NC State defeated the Seminoles in Tallahassee two months ago in the league opener for both.

"These are the kind of games you always remember," Hamilton lamented.

Despite losing star guard Toney Douglas from last year's tournament finalist, Florida State finished strong again this year even with a sluggish windup by 7-foot-1 sophomore center Solomon Alabi. He has averaged only 7.1 points and 2.7 rebounds during the final six games.

"People have been giving him a lot of attention," Hamilton said. "We have to see whether or not we can get him adjusted to the challenge of what people are doing to him once he gets into the lane. That's part of the next phase in the adjustments he has to make."

Alabi still finished the season as the Seminoles' leading scorer, averaging 11.6 points with the ACC's defensive player of the year, Chris Singleton, right behind at 10.4.

Unlike a year ago when Douglas led the Seminoles in scoring in 31 of 35 games, seven different players have snared game highs this season, led by Alabi and Singleton seven times apiece.

"We've figured all along that we'd have to win games by committee," Hamilton said. "We had the kind of team we have different guys stepping up."

Freshman Michael Snaer has picked up a lot of the scoring slack in recent weeks. The 6-4 Californian has averaged 10 points a game since Dec. 2 and led the Seminoles in scoring in three of the last six games. He finished as the team's third leading scorer at 8.9 points a game.

Hamilton believes last year's experience will help his young club deal with the tournament frenzy in Greensboro, N.C.

"I'm sure it has a calming effect, gives the kids an idea of what to expect," he said. "But none of that helps you with this game. It's a different team, a different year."

After eliminating eventual national champion North Carolina 73-70 in last year's semifinal, the Seminoles were beaten by Duke 79-69 in the championship game.

Hamilton, naturally, would like to have a different result -- one that would give the Seminoles their first ACC Tournament title.