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Expect Seminoles to Dance come March


Florida State was supposed to make noise in the college basketball world next season. The Seminoles have a solid recruiting class, with guards Jason Rich and Isaiah Swann coming in.

Leonard Hamilton
But coach Leonard Hamilton's team is making a run at an NCAA bid this year and maybe even an upper-division finish in the ACC. Think about what the Seminoles have done this season: wins over Wake Forest, North Carolina, Maryland and now Georgia Tech (81-65 on Tuesday). Senior guard Tim Pickett scored 33 points against Georgia Tech.

Florida State also gave Duke and Pittsburgh battles on their home courts. Yes, the Seminoles still have five ACC road games left (Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech). But Hamilton and his squad deserve a salute for a job well done so far.

With the quality wins already in the bank, I feel that the Seminoles should make it to the Big Dance. I expect the ACC to get seven teams into the NCAA Tournament.

The road to to the NCAA Tournament will be tough for Notre Dame. The Irish have a 10-7 record (4-3 Big East).

Notre Dame plays at Boston College on Wednesday night, and then coach Mike Brey's team has six straight difficult games (all these opponents are currently ranked except Seton Hall, which received votes in the latest polls):

Feb. 7 -- Pittsburgh (No. 4)
Feb. 9 -- Connecticut (No. 5)
Feb. 14 -- Seton Hall
Feb. 16 -- at Syracuse (No. 20)
Feb. 21 -- at Connecticut (No. 5)
Feb. 24 -- Providence (No. 23)

Junior guard Chris Thomas, sophomore forward Torin Francis and the Irish will have a number of chances to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. But Notre Dame will need a few big wins down the stretch.

The Boilermakers suffered a setback when 6-10 senior Chris Booker was declared ineligible for the rest of the season.

Coach Gene Keady will miss having another big body inside. Booker averaged 9.4 points and 5.6 rebounds and shot 52 percent from the field.

Purdue plays four of its next six Big Ten games on the road.

Coach Dave Leitao is thrilled to have senior big man Andre Brown back in the lineup. Brown sat out five weeks with a knee injury. He scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds Tuesday in a win over Tulane.

Leitao is doing a solid job rebuilding the DePaul program. He has good recruits coming in, and he'll need them with the Blue Demons joining the expanded powerhouse Big East down in 2005-06.

South Carolina has been one of the big surprise stories this season. Coach Dave Odom's team was picked last in the SEC East in the preseason poll.

How many people know about junior guard Josh Gonner, senior guard Michael Boynton and junior forward Carlos Powell? These Gamecocks can flat-out play, though they'll be tested Saturday against Kentucky.

By the way, speaking of the SEC, my choice for league player of the year right now would be, hands down, Mississippi State junior forward Lawrence Roberts (who transferred from Baylor).

When I called the Syracuse-Connecticut game Monday night for ESPN, there was an interesting discussion about the best players under Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun. It wasn't easy to pick just five, but here it goes...

My All-Syracuse Team under Jim Boeheim
Carmelo Anthony
Derrick Coleman
Sherman Douglas
Billy Owens
Pearl Washington

My All-Connecticut Team under Jim Calhoun
Ray Allen
Richard Hamilton
Donyell Marshall
Emeka Okafor
Clifford Robinson

You can make the case for a number of others. Rony Seikaly and Lawrence Moten are two that come to mind for the Orangemen. What about Khalid El-Amin, Tate George or Scott Burrell for the Huskies? That's what makes this interesting ... just an opinion, baby!

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