GAME NOTES: Into the postseason for the eighth consecutive year, the Florida State Seminoles find themselves matched up against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the first round of the 76th annual NIT on Tuesday night.
Florida State, which was 10-7 at home this season, is one of the four top seeds in this year's event. The Seminoles sported a favorable 9-6 non- conference mark, but were only 9-9 in the highly-competitive ACC. The squad did close the regular season with consecutive wins over Virginia and NC State, and then opened the conference tournament with a 73-69 victory over Clemson as well. But following their third win of the season against the Tigers, the Seminoles were defeated rather easily by North Carolina, 83-62, in the quarterfinals last Thursday at Greensboro Coliseum.
As for the fifth-seeded Bulldogs, at one point this season they owned the nation's longest win streak at 18 in a row and even made it into the national rankings for the first time in nearly three decades, but the thrill was short-lived. Louisiana Tech actually fell out of the Top-25 after outscoring a pair of Western Athletic Conference opponents by a combined 50 points. The the Bulldogs suffered back-to-back defeats versus the likes of New Mexico State and Denver before collapsing in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament versus Texas-San Antonio, 73-67.
The Bulldogs own a mark of 7-6 in this tournament all-time, last playing in the event back in 2006 when it fell to Clemson in the first round, 69-53.
Florida State, which first appeared in the NIT back in 1984, has a record of 10-7 in the event during seven previous bids and made it all the way to the title game back in 1997 before bowing to Michigan, 82-73.
The winner of this first-ever meeting will head to the second round of the tourney where it will challenge the survivor of the Charleston Southern/Southern Miss matchup.
Michael White, the WAC Coach of the Year, led a very successful LaTech squad which just happened to hit the wall at the wrong time this season. A defensive-minded group, the Bulldogs held the opposition to just 63.2 ppg on 40.1 percent shooting from the field and 29.4 percent beyond the arc. Louisiana Tech, which knocked down almost 100 more 3-pointers than the competition over the course of 32 games, generated 73.3 ppg yet had just a single double-digit scorer in Raheem Appleby who was responsible for 14.4 ppg. The epitome of a balanced attack, outside of Appleby the Bulldogs had a laundry list of solid scorers who at any time could lead the group to victory, as long as Kenneth Smith (6.9 ppg) typically had his hand involved as he delivered 167 assists, almost twice the number of anyone else on the squad.
A bit too free-wheeling with the ball at times, the Seminoles had more than their share of turnovers during the season, averaging 14.5 miscues per outing. While that doesn't sound too overwhelming, it is still tough to get around the fact that there are only two players on the roster with more assists than turnovers through 33 games. One of those was Devon Bookert (6.6 ppg) who was just a part-time starter yet still finished second on the unit with 80 dishes. Just ahead of Bookert was Michael Snaer (81 assists) who led the program in scoring with 14.5 ppg thanks to his 58-of-154 (.377) shooting beyond the arc. Okaro White, the only player to have started every game, was responsible for 12.4 ppg and a team-best 5.9 rpg.
Even though the Bulldogs fell short of the NCAA Tournament after a rough couple of weeks there at the end, there is still plenty for the team to prove in March and the first step in that quest begins on Tuesday in Tallahassee.
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