TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley lived up to every expectation except one this season – getting back to the NCAA Tournament.
As the Seminoles (19-13) prepare to host Davidson (20-12) in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday, the duo is looking at the upcoming tournament as a way to start playing for next season.
''It can help us a lot in the future. We're a young team still. We have a lot of young talent coming in,'' Bacon said. ''It will help us get a feel for the postseason and what it is like. I would rather be playing than sitting at home and wondering what are we going to do.''
Bacon and Beasley made the Atlantic Coast Conference's All-Freshman team, averaging a combined 31 points per game. Bacon led the Seminoles in scoring (15.6 points) and rebounds (5.8) per game while Beasley averaged 15.4 points and 5.2 rebounds.
Both though had their problems late in the season as Florida State dropped five straight during a mid-February stretch to knock itself out of NCAA Tournament consideration.
Beasley scored in double figures in his first 24 games but then went through a stretch where he averaged just 8.6 in the next five games where Florida State went 1-4. In the past three games, the 6-foot-5 guard has returned to form, averaging 14.3 points and shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
''It has been an up and down journey and focusing on the little things,'' Beasley said. ''It's about taking winning and losing streaks in stride along with adjusting to new defensive schemes.''
Bacon struggled with shooting during conference play (39.9 percent). Instead of trying to drive to the basket, where he said he was more effective, the 6-foot-7 guard too often tried to shoot from the perimeter, where he was 16 of 63.
Coach Leonard Hamilton believes both players have done a good job of finding their second wind as the Seminoles closed the regular season by winning three of their last four.
''I think those guys have done a very good job of hiding that fatigue issue,'' he said. ''It happens with all first-year players. You run into that wall and you just have to find a way to work through it. Most of it is just being mentally and emotionally tough enough.''
While both players look at the NIT as a chance for building a resume for next season, the question remains if both will be back. Beasley said he has seen some mock drafts where he is projected to go in the first round but says he has tried not to give it much thought.
Bacon also said he is not trying to get caught up in the questions about leaving school early.
''It's a great feeling when you see things like that but you still can't get caught up in it because at the end of the day they're just the analysts. They're not a team, they're not a coach, they're not a head man of an NBA team,'' he said.