Minnesota-Florida St. Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- Florida State is off to a quick start, but coach Leonard Hamilton still feels that Minnesota is "further along" than his team.
The 21st-ranked Golden Gophers will try to prove that Tuesday night in Tallahassee in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Seminoles (4-1) are undefeated - including the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic title - - since a season-opening loss to South Alabama, but Hamilton now gets to see his team tested against a ranked opponent for the first time in 2012-13.
The Seminoles won six of their last seven against the Top 25 last season en route to their first ACC tournament title, but with star guard Michael Snaer - the team leader with 16.0 points per game - the only senior in this year's rotation, Hamilton said they're "still a team that's growing."
"(The Golden Gophers) have a little more experience returning," Hamilton, whose team defeated North Florida 75-67 on Wednesday, told the school's official website. "They're extremely deep - they play 11 people in the first 10 minutes of the game. They have some veteran guards and athletic forwards. This is a good basketball team."
Minnesota (6-1) arrives in Tallahassee after defeating Stanford 66-63 on Saturday for fifth place at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. After scoring a career-best 41 points in Friday's 84-75 victory over then-No. 19 Memphis, sophomore guard Andre Hollins missed seven of eight shots and finished with eight points against the Cardinal, but he hit three clutch free throws with 0.4 seconds left after getting fouled on a midcourt shot.
"It was real tough today because I couldn't stop thinking about yesterday," said Hollins, named the Big Ten player of the week on Monday. "I knew it would be a physical game and it was. I knew it from the first shot I took when I got hit hard and they kept it up so I became a distributor for our big guys and that was fine."
Already getting good production from senior forward Rodney Williams Jr., who is scoring a team-best 14.1 points per game with 6.1 rebounds, the Golden Gophers could be an even tougher matchup for Florida State's big men as Trevor Mbakwe is rounding back into form. Mbakwe, who played in just seven games last season due to a torn ACL, had his best game of the season Saturday with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
He leads the team with 47 boards despite playing a little more than 18 minutes per game - all off the bench.
Junior forward Okaro White, who like Snaer (the MVP) was named to the All-tournament team at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, understands the challenge that awaits the Seminoles.
"They're a really good team," White said. "Their coach (Tubby Smith) said this is probably the best team he's coached at Minnesota. ... they're looking to beat us also, so we need to come into this game prepared."
Florida State has won two in a row versus Minnesota - both in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge - to improve to 4-3 in this series. In the last meeting, the host Seminoles won 75-61 on Nov. 27, 2007.
Updated November 26, 2012