Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jones: This just in, Leonard Hamilton and FSU exit early again in NCAA Tournament

ORLANDO — As the seconds dwindled down, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton made the slow and all-too-familiar walk to center court to congratulate the opposing coach. That's how FSU's basketball season ended Saturday night.

That's how every FSU basketball season ends under Hamilton.

In disappointment. In frustration. In failure.

Another promising season down the tubes. Another season full of hope wiped out by a baffling loss. Another chapter in the book of a program that gets you all giddy in January but simply doesn't have what it takes to navigate its way through March.

The Seminoles won 26 games. They beat heavyweights such as Florida, Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame. They went undefeated at home.

So what? For all the success, for all the promise, this Seminoles season will be remembered for how it ended: a loss before the end of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament to a team seeded eight spots below it in the bracket.

The 'Noles played what might have been their worst game of the season in the biggest game of the season. And when you really think about it, there's no excuse for what happened Saturday.

Everything was lined for FSU to make the Sweet 16 for just the second time in Hamilton's 15-year tenure. What else could the Seminoles have wanted?

They were a No. 3 seed playing a No. 11 in 13-loss Xavier, an upset winner over Maryland on Thursday. They were playing just down the road in Orlando, practically a home game. Their roster, which includes two likely NBA first-round draft picks, was deeper and more talented than Xavier.

And they lost. By 25!

Two questions come to mind. How does that happen? And are you really all that surprised?

"I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish, but that's the nature of basketball," Hamilton said. "You're going to always have a game when you're not going to be at your best."

That was FSU on Saturday. Actually, that has been FSU for the past month.

The Seminoles got everyone all excited by starting 18-2 and getting to No. 6 in the country. Since then, they went 8-7, including Saturday's loss that was never competitive in the second half. Maybe that's who they really were all along, a .500 team that could get blown out by anybody.

"I thought we played some very good competition," Hamilton said when asked about FSU's late-season collapse. "We got caught playing some people who were playing at a high level."

See, that's what good programs do. They get better as the season goes along. They play their best when it matters most. They don't get worse. They don't get exposed. They don't get outplayed and outcoached.

Saturday showed the difference between a team that knows how to play this time a year and one that doesn't. FSU was just fine until Xavier decided to pack in its zone defense midway through the first half. FSU acted as if it never had seen such a thing.

Its coach couldn't figure out a way to crack the zone, and its players couldn't shoot over it, missing 17 of 21 3-pointers. Even Xavier coach Chris Mack couldn't help but state the obvious when talking about Florida State:

"I don't think they played very well, to be honest. I think we had a lot to do with that."

It's hard to beat up a guy like Hamilton because he seems like such a decent fellow. But do you know how many NCAA Tournament games Hamilton has won in 15 seasons at FSU? Four. And he has lost five. Shouldn't Florida State expect better than that?

"I did tell them that I thought we had a great season," he said. "Every team has some weaknesses and some shortcomings and some strengths. I thought we did a very good job all year long by playing to our strengths."

But on Saturday, it played to its weakness. It couldn't shoot when it mattered. It couldn't play defense when it mattered. It couldn't win when it mattered.

Just like every year at Florida State.

You think FSU fans would be angry at this point. But they have more important matters to tend to.

Like spring football.

Jones: This just in, Leonard Hamilton and FSU exit early again in NCAA Tournament 03/18/17 [Last modified: Saturday, March 18, 2017 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs mull options at right tackle as Dotson awaits MRI

    Bucs

    Right tackle Demar Dotson, the Bucs' most experienced offensive lineman, will undergo an MRI on his injured groin Saturday, three weeks before the season opener.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneer Demar Dotson, offensive tackle, brought his coffee and breakfast to One Buc Place, 7/31/15, as he reported to training camp.
  2. For starters: Rays vs. Mariners, with another new look

    Blogs

    Having lost 11 of their last 14 games and dropping to a season-worst four games under .500 at 60-64, the Rays continue to search for ways to get out of their extended offensive slump.

    And with the M's starting LHP Ariel Miranda today, that means another new look to the lineup, which includes having struggling …

  3. Chasing 125: Bucs hope to hit rushing goal more often

    Bucs

    Ever so often, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pulls back the curtain a bit and shares some of the stats that matter to him most as a coach.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
  4. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005

    Bucs

    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  5. Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Drouin, Tim Beckham are coming for revenge

    Bucs

    Forget the Three Tenors.

    Make it the Three Terrors.

    The 2017 Unfulfilled Expectations Tour is about to hit Tampa Bay.

    From left, former Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, ex-Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and former Rays infielder Tim Beckham. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times; DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times; Getty Images]