Xavier finds itself in a familiar place today, the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. To help us all prepare for today’s game, we talked to David Visser of Tomahawk Nation. He had a lot of good things to say, and I’m still amazed to learn that Burt Reynolds played at Florida State.
1.) Happy March! how is the mood in Tallahassee right now?
Downtown Tallahassee is growing and its skyline becoming more prominent, providing myriad options as far as high ledges for FSU basketball fans to throw themselves off several times a game. Florida State's is an odd basketball fanbase, many of whom approach the team with unrealistic expectations, due to the consistent national prominence of the football and baseball programs. Still, the goal coming into this season was simply to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, so finishing second in the ACC and grabbing a 3-seed recalibrated the goals of the fanbase and just what a successful season entails.
That being said, FSU's game with Xavier will decide how many in garnet and gold wind up judging this campaign. Making the Sweet 16 would render this season a success in the minds of most; losing in the second round? Probably not-- not anymore.
2.) Watching the game against Florida Gulf Coast, it seemed that your big men really handled the game. How do you see that being a factor against Xavier's guard-strong offense?
Florida State is the second tallest team in the country, and the nation got a representative glimpse of that on Thursday night, when the Seminoles swatted nine FGCU shots while grabbing 20 more rebounds than the Eagles. The natural reaction for the fans of guard-heavy teams is to worry about FSU's length, but smaller, quicker teams have actually given the Seminoles fits. The Florida State guards can struggle to stay in front of speedy perimeter players, which can create mismatches on dribble drives. And when FSU overplays to deny, it can be susceptible to the backdoor cut.
On offense, the physicality of the Florida State bigs can be a real problem for opponents-- provided refs give them a chance to exert that physical advantage, which has not always been the case. Keep an eye on how much imposing FSU center Michael Ojo is permitted to use his strength. If the zebras swallow their whistles, that's a good thing not only for the Florida State big men but the team as a whole, as Head Coach Leonard Hamilton wants this team to play at a frenetic, breakneck speed, thereby maximizing its impressive depth.
3.) I'm always amazed at how big the state of Florida actually is. It's massive. Will FSU have a home game, or is the travel too far?
That depends on how long Gator fans choose to tailgate. FSU fans aren't just in Tallahassee, they're all over the state, and Orlando is a great central location from pretty much any direction. So while they'll easily outnumber the Xavier faithful, the Florida-Virginia game is after the Seminoles play the Musketeers. If those from Gainesville decide to show up early, Xavier will have some extra supporters.
4.) We have Bill Murray and Northwestern has Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Who is Florida State's biggest fan?
Aside from numerous sports figures, there's an eclectic group of celebrities to have attended FSU (although not all are still alive). Like Jim Morrison, famous frontman of The Doors. The name Paul Gleason probably doesn't mean much to many-- but the actor known best for playing Principle Vernon in The Breakfast Club played football for Florida State before hitting Hollywood. Other actors include Cheryl Hines and Faye Dunaway, as well as workout guru Richard Simmons, announcer Lee Corso, and Spanx inventor Sara Blakely. But as far as the most famous fan who's also a huge, active supporter of Seminoles athletics, you've gotta give the nod to the Bandit himself, Burt Reynolds (another former FSU football player).
5.) Score prediction?
Vegas likes Florida State by six, and that sounds about right to me. FSU 77, Xavier 71.