Coach Leonard Hamilton and Florida State meet Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo
Xavier stunned third-seeded Florida State last year in the NCAA Tournament but Sunday -- a year to the day after that upset, the Seminoles get their chance at payback.
The teams meet in a second-round NCAA Tournament game with their roles reversed as the Seminoles look to halt Xavier's dream season in a second-round matchup at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Having received a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history, Xavier opened its postseason run with a 102-83 victory over Texas Southern on Thursday night.
Florida State drew an eight seed after going 20-10 in the regular season with a 9-9 record in ACC play. The Seminoles knocked off No. 8 Missouri in the first round.
"Our guys were connected defensively early in the game," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We were able to get some significant stops and deflections and steals that gave us some easy opportunities. A lot of that is because Missouri's similar to us in terms of youthful inexperience.
"But tomorrow's game is different because we're playing against an extremely experienced team with a lot of quality depth, a team that's very well connected together, and that we're going to have to be a little sounder defensively.
"We're going to have to execute a lot better offensively because this team has earned the right to be a No. 1 seed."
The Musketeers return largely the same cast that pulled off last year's upset and were bolstered by the efforts of graduate transfer Kerem Kanter and sophomores Tyrique Jones and Sean O'Mara.
"I think they're better than they were last year, because they're older, more experienced," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "They have basically the entire team coming back, maybe with the exception of a couple role players. I think they're older, more mature."
Florida State lost two of its bigger stars to the NBA Draft, including lottery selection Jonathan Isaac.
"I see a team that plays for one another, that plays together," Mack said. "I think it's a much better sum of its parts team than maybe a year ago.
"That's no disrespect to the guys that were on the team a year ago, but that's sort of what happens when guys start to climb up the draft boards and they feel like they're auditioning in March a little bit.
"So we just have to worry about keeping those guys, as best we can, out of the lane and off the glass and then handling ball pressure that we're going to see tomorrow."
Mack wasn't sure if Naji Marshall would be ready to go Sunday night. The freshman forward played only 16 minutes before heading to the bench with back tightness and did not take part in the Saturday practice session.
"We're hopeful that he'll be well enough to play tomorrow," Mack said. "But I'm not trying to be coy. I just don't know. Hopefully, his back loosens up over the next 24 hours.
"The good thing is, as you guys know who have had lower back problems or any type of problem physically, usually feel a little bit better at night than you do in the morning, so I'm glad our game's later on in the evening."