Season to Date: Leonard Hamilton arrived in Tallahassee with the expectation that he'd return Florida State to the NCAA Tournament. In his first four seasons with the Seminoles, that didn't happen. Now, in his fifth season, FSU sits right on the bubble heading into Friday's game against UNC. Bracket experts suggest a win over the Tar Heels will be necessary to earn an at-large berth. FSU was 12-2 in non-conference play, with wins over Florida and Providence and "quality losses" at Pittsburgh and at Wisconsin. And they played quite well in the first half of the ACC schedule, starting out 5-4, with wins over Maryland and Duke. But then came a five-game losing streak and it took a win over NC State and an overtime win over Miami in the season finale to bring their record up to 7-9. In their ACC Tournament opener, the Seminoles got another All-ACC performance from Al Thornton (25 points, 11 rebounds) and scored the game's final six points for a 67-66 win over Clemson.
Versus UNC: Florida State traveled to Chapel Hill on Jan. 7. The Tar Heels took a six-point lead into halftime and then turned the game into a rout in the second half for an 84-58 final score. Carolina dominated the paint, getting 45 combined points (17-25 FG) from Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright. Al Thornton had a game-high 29 points
Go-To Senior: Al Thornton earned first-team All-ACC honors for a terrific senior season. The super-athletic 6-8 forward is the only player in the ACC who ranks in the league's top 10 in scoring (1st, 20.2 ppg), rebounding (6th, 7.4 rpg), blocked shots (9th, 1.16 bpg), field goal percentage (6th, .530) and free throw shooting percentage (5th, .818). He starts at the power forward spot, but has the perimeter skills to take defenders off the dribble, while using his length and athleticism to be effective inside.
Post Questions: With 6-3 Jason Rich at small forward, a combo forward in Thornton at power forward and a still-developing sophomore in Uche Echefu in the middle -- plus only one true post player off the bench (Ryan Reid, who is a freshman) -- Florida State has struggled in the paint and on the boards. The Seminoles are ranked last (12th) in the conference in offensive rebounding and 10th in rebounding margin. And, as previously noted, the Tar Heels scored at will in the post and owned the boards in the earlier matchup against FSU.
Beyond the Arc Florida State is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference. Al Thornton leads the way at 44.8 percent, followed by Toney Douglas (43.3), Jason Rich (42.4), Ralph Mims (38.1) and Isaiah Swann (37.0).
Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series against Florida state, 35-8, including a 9-1 record at neutral sites.
Projected Starters: 3 Isaiah Swann (6-1, 203, Jr.) – 9.6 ppg, 3.2 apg 10 Ralph Mims (6-2, 210, Jr.) – 5.5 ppg, 2.4 apg 25 Jason Rich (6-3, 200, Jr.) – 10.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg 12 Al Thornton (6-8, 220, Sr.) – 20.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg 41 Uche Echefu (6-9, 220, So.) – 7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg Key Reserves: 23 Toney Douglas (6-1, 196, So.) - 13.1 ppg, 2.7 apg 11 Jerel Allen (6-4, 192, Sr.) – 4.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg 15 Casaan Breeden (6-8, 200, So.) – 2.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg 42 Ryan Reid (6-8, 232, Fr.) – 2.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Thornton ....... Douglas
Rich ....... Echefu
Swann ....... Mims
(Photos courtesy AP)