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Seminoles focus on development
Coach Leonard Hamilton wants to improve on FSU's two previous second-round losses.
By D.C. REEVES
Published March 15, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - Leonard Hamilton has been to this point twice in his four seasons at Florida State but no further.
NIT, second round, at home.
The games in 2004 and 2006 at the Donald L. Tucker Center were close losses, and he hopes the third - at 7 tonight with Michigan - can propel the program to the next level.
Or at least the next round.
"This opportunity is important," said Hamilton, who is 5-6 in 11 NIT games. "This is an opportunity to improve our program and to improve ourselves as individuals. It's become old habit to deal with obstacles now. We could probably write a book."
FSU's performance, as always, will be predicated on the play of all-ACC forward Al Thornton, who is just six points shy of 1,500 for his career. He led the Seminoles with 24 in Tuesday's 77-61 win over Toledo.
"It's an honor to be recognized as one of the top scorers in school history," said the senior, who is eighth in school history. "But it really doesn't matter that much to me. I just want to keep playing and winning. I just want to play here as long as I can."
In those second-round slipups, FSU lost to Iowa State by three and South Carolina by one in overtime last season.
FSU and Michigan are 22-12, have consecutive 20-win seasons and haven't been to an NCAA Tournament this decade. Michigan joined FSU in the 2004 and 2006 NIT.
"I guess we kind of mirror each other," Hamilton said. "We're similar in that we have had some setbacks that probably, had they been avoided, we both could have easily been in the NCAA Tournament."
Hamilton hasn't faced the Wolverines since taking over in Tallahassee but is familiar with coach Tommy Amaker. They were Big East counterparts from 1997-2000, with Hamilton at Miami and Amaker at Seton Hall. Hamilton was 3-1 in their meetings.
Senior point guard Dion Harris leads the Wolverines with 13.4 points a game. However, they have endured offensive woes lately. Michigan has eclipsed 50 percent shooting and scored 70 points only once in its past 14 games.
"They're a typical ACC, Big Ten-type program," Hamilton said. "When you look at the way they play and the outcome of their games, they have been just about right there."