Florida State’s outstanding season is over. It didn’t just end, it came crashing down with a thud on Saturday. The Xavier Musketeers, losers of 13 games this season, bludgeoned the Seminoles 91-66 in the NCAA Tournament second round at the Amway Center in Orlando.
Those who might not have seen the game might make the assumption that Florida State did not show up to play. That would be an unfair assumption to both Florida State and Xavier.
The Musketeers, who at one time lost six games in a row in February, got their act together late in the season and came into the tournament as winners of four of their last five. One of those victories against Butler, the South Region’s fourth seed. They beat a very good Maryland team in the first round.
Florida State, on the other hand, was never able to regain the magic after a 12-game winning streak ended. Five double-digit losses came as the result of poor shooting (especially free throws), poor defense, turnovers, and lack of preparation.
Only one of those factors, poor shooting, came into play in the FSU’s largest loss of the season. Xavier, superbly coached by Chris Mack, was that good.
The Seminoles committed only nine turnovers, a respectable amount against an aggressive defense. They made 14 of 19 free throws, a respectable 74 percent.
They pressured the Xavier ball handlers. FSU’s best player, Dwayne Bacon was aggressive, but also shared the ball.
So how on earth did FSU get swamped by 25 points? The Musketeers, who jumped on the Seminoles early and never let up, deserve all of the credit.
“They were just all over the place,” said Bacon. “We would nip at the lead, then they kept making big shots. They made big shots all night.”
Xavier passed the ball (20 assists on 30 made shots) and got inside, but also shot exceptionally well from the outside, making 11 of 17 three-point attempts. MTSU shot 57 percent from the game.
The Seminoles, quite simply, shot miserably. They only made 40 percent of their shots, and made only four of 21 three-point attempts.
Firing up so many bricks prevented the Seminoles from setting up their defense after made baskets. Xavier had no such difficulties.
For those who think the Seminoles, blew it, you are close, but not in the way you think. While several Musketeers played extremely well, guard Trevon Bluiett was simply sensational.
He scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half. Bluiett made three-pointers, layups, jumpers and 10 of 14 free throws. He also had six rebounds and three assists.
Bacon, in what may be his last game in a Seminole uniform, had 20 points while Xavier Rathan-Mayes added 16. Jonathan Isaac, who will almost certainly depart for the NBA, had eight.
In the end, Leonard Hamilton’s best team finished on a huge downer. It’s a safe prediction the “fire Leonard Hamilton” crowd is already organizing.
For the rest of Seminole fans, it was a fun year.