Florida St. earns No. 3 seed in NCAAs
By PAUL NEWBERRY
ATLANTA (AP) The NCAA selection committee took note when Florida State won its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
The Seminoles were rewarded with a No. 3 seed after beating fourth-ranked North Carolina 85-82 Sunday in the ACC championship game, setting up a meeting with St. Bonaventure in the NCAAs.
Florida State (24-9) seemed likely to receive a fourth or fifth seed heading into the ACC tournament in Atlanta. But the Seminoles, ranked 17th, got on a major roll, beating sixth-ranked Duke in the ACC semifinals before taking out the fourth-ranked Tar Heels in the final.
"They have set the standard by which all other schools have been looked at," said Florida State's Leonard Hamilton, who became the first African-American coach to win the ACC title. "Just to have the opportunity to raise the level of your program because you have two icons in basketball there for us to compete against, it's a unique and special opportunity. Nationally it will probably give as a little more recognition because we have been successful."
On Friday, the Seminoles will open the NCAAs in Nashville, Tenn., against St. Bonaventure (20-11), which claimed its spot by winning the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time.
With a veteran team led by ACC tournament MVP Michael Snaer, Florida State already has carved out a niche by beating North Carolina and Duke twice in the same season for the first time. The Seminoles handed the Tar Heels their worst loss of the Roy Williams era, a 33-point thrashing in Tallahassee - then showed it was no fluke, building a 16-point lead in the title game before holding on at the end.
North Carolina missed a couple of 3-pointers in the closing seconds.
"I'm not really sure we can replace them, because of the tradition and longevity," Hamilton said. "But we've got to earn our little niche."
Snaer hit a couple of game-deciding shots during the regular season, including a 3-pointer to give the Seminoles a memorable win at Duke. He kept up his strong play in the ACC tournament, averaging 18 points over three games to take the MVP award.
But he's got plenty of help.
"The resiliency of this team is impressive," said guard Luke Loucks, also named the ACC all-tournament squad. "That's what you hope for with a veteran-laden team that has been through a lot."
Florida State, best known for its football success, will be appearing in the NCAA basketball tournament for the fourth straight year. The Seminoles reached the round of 16 a year ago, but their best run came in 1972 when they got all the way to the championship game before losing to John Wooden-coached UCLA 81-76 in the midst of its dominating run of titles.
"We're not just some random team from Florida," Loucks said. "We're in the thick of things every year. Coach Hamilton has done a great job of rebuilding this program, and he's going to continue to do that."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose team still received a top seed despite losing in the ACC, said the Seminoles deserved to have a leading role in the NCAA field. They were placed in the East Regional, which has Syracuse as the top seed and will finish in Boston.
"I'd be really disappointed if they didn't have an extremely high seed," Williams said before the pairings were announced.
For Hamilton, all the talk about seedings was something new.
"We haven't had the luxury over the years to be overly concerned about which seed we've been getting," the 10th-year coach said. "We just want to get in the tournament, quite frankly."
Now, the real season begins. The Seminoles already have one championship. They'd like to get another.
"We need to go into the NCAA tournament," Hamilton said, "and we need to represent.
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Updated March 11, 2012