St. Bonaventure-Florida St. Preview

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies insist they feel no pressure with

nothing to lose and everything to gain in the NCAA tournament.

Memories of a painful loss a year ago still haunt the

10th-ranked Florida State Seminoles who have no intention of

overlooking anyone.

The two will square off Friday in the East region.

”Personally, I’ve thought about it every day since the VCU

game,” Florida State senior Bernard James said Thursday of last

year’s 71-70 overtime loss to VCU in the regional semifinals.

A motivated Florida State (24-9) won its first ever Atlantic

Coast Conference tournament title and a three seed in the


The Seminoles use that VCU loss to check any ego in a season

where they beat North Carolina and Duke twice.

Florida State’s 76-73 win on Jan. 21 over Duke snapped the Blue

Devils’ 45-game home winning streak and the Seminoles captured the

ACC crown with their second win over the Tar Heels.

James said they’ve already talked about this tournament being

their chance to right the wrong of their loss a year ago.

”We use it as a constant reminder every day to stay focused and

to perform at the top of our ability,” James said.

The 14th-seeded Bonnies’ biggest win may have been in the

Atlantic 10 tournament as they beat first Massachusetts, then

Xavier for their first-ever title too. That gave them their first

NCAA berth since 2000 just a few days after coach Mark Schmidt

thought his team was headed toward the College Basketball


Now Schmidt says they’re playing with house money after the

miracle in Atlantic City.

”As a kid you grow up dreaming about playing in the NCAA

tournament and a week ago that dream wasn’t going to become

reality, and somehow, some way it became, and our guys can’t wait

to play,” Schmidt said. ”They’re excited looking forward to the


Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton warns not to buy into St.

Bonaventure as a Cinderella cliche. He has seen enough video on the

Bonnies to know better. Hamilton said they’re a team that could

compete in the ACC with 6-foot-9 senior forward Andrew Nicholson,

the A-10 player of the year.

Hamilton said he’s probably like the NBA scouts that have taken

so many notes on the possible first-round draft pick. Nicholson not

only averages 18.4 points a game, he hits 65 percent of his shots,

which is better than Bonnies’ legend and former NBA player Bob

Lanier. Nicholson also shoots 39.6 percent beyond the arc, helping

the Bonnies average 70.7 points per game.

”He’s a moving target, and you really can’t key on him as

well,” Hamilton said. ”He’s not always on the post. He’s not

always on the perimeter, plus he can take you off the


This is just the sixth NCAA trip all-time for the Bonnies, a

program that has been building back since 2003 when a player who

transferred in with only a welding certificate from a Georgia

community college was ruled ineligible and the team was barred from

the A-10 tournament. The players boycotted their final two regular

season games, the coach was fired and the president resigned.

Nicholson said he’s glad to be on a team that brought

respectability back to the program. Sophomore point guard Charlon

Kloof said they’re not satisfied with just being here.

”For us, it wasn’t that much of a surprise to win the A-10,”

Kloof said. ”We wanted to surprise the world. For us, it’s OK, we

reached one of our goals, let’s try to see what we can do in the

NCAA tournament.’ So you just try to take it one day at a time, one

game at a time.”

The Seminoles are pretty used to finishing the season in the

NCAA tournament with this a school record fourth straight trip.

This is their highest seeding since 1993 when they reached a

regional final for a program that lost the 1972 national

championship game to UCLA.

This group plays stingy defense, leading the ACC holding

opponents to 38.1 percent shooting. And they’re very experienced

with four seniors who’ve started the last half of the season.

They’re led by James and top scorer Michael Snaer, a junior. The

Seminoles are 15-3 since a 79-59 loss at Clemson that prompted some

soul searching.

James said they’ve taken their communication to a new level over

the past four or five games.

”We’re talking all the time on the court. It’s basically what

our coach has been trying to get us to do since Day one,” James

said. ”And it’s a little easier said than done, but once you get

that mindset, the mindset we’re in now of talking constantly, just

letting your teammates know every single thing you’re doing when

you’re on the court.”