We’ve heard all season about UVA, Duke, and Carolina. We’ve heard all about the ACC having three #1 seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament. But there’s another ACC team that has been grinding in the shadows, developing into a serious contender. After a 1-4 start, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles have often been discussed as afterthoughts in the perennially powerful Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Seminoles have only dropped two games in over two months. Those losses came to UNC and to Duke in the ACC Championship game. During the tournament, Hamilton attributes the team’s success to getting healthier and the development of more harmonious team chemistry. In addition to Phil Cofer being out, there were five new players and three first time starters.
“We were going through development, we were growing. We were just growing and developing and I think our play showed that. We were inconsistent, not shooting the ball very well, we were not defending very well, because we were playing a lot of guys. When you’re playing that many people, it takes a little longer to get in sync.”
The Noles are deep – eleven or twelve players are in the rotation on any given night. Florida State is long, rangy, and can defend which makes them exceptionally dangerous in March – a fact not lost on Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Following the ACC Championship game, Coach K had nothing but words of praise for the Seminole squad.
“Leonard and I are really good friends, you know, like he has a program there, he doesn’t have a team. It’s built on great kids, a lot of kids, and they’re playing great defense. And a lot of tall kids. But they accept their roles and they play so hard. And because they can really play defense, they will have a shot at anybody, and we had a very difficult time winning tonight. I think they’re really good.”
Still, the Noles have been overlooked – and they know it. Senior forward says that being overlooked has happened his whole career at FSU but the Noles are ready to put everyone on notice. “We’ve been the underdogs for the four years I’ve been here so that’s nothing new to us. We know how to play.”
The team also heads to California with added inspiration as they face top-seeded Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen without Phil Cofer who lost his father last week. It was in the locker room following the Noles opening round win over Vermont where Cofer got the call from his mother that his father, Mike Cofer had passed away following a 10 year battle with Amyloidosis. The elder Cofer was a Pro Bowl linebacker during his 10 year NFL career and had been battling the rare disease for the past decade. On Monday, Hamilton informed media that he does not expect Cofer to be available for Thursday’s game “as he deals with one of the most challenging things a young person has to deal with.” Cofer was the leading scorer in the Noles win over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. FSU and Gonzaga tip off on Thursday at 7:09pm EST.Tags: FSU Seminoles, Leonard Hamilton, March Madness, NCAA Tournament, Terance Mann