Traditionally a tall and deep team, the Florida State Seminoles are not ducking from that identity this season.
On Saturday, the 19th-ranked Seminoles (9-2) will challenge the South Florida Bulls (6-5) as part of the annual Orange Bowl Classic doubleheader at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The other game pits Florida against Utah State.
The Seminoles are known to have multiple 7-footers on their roster every year, and this season, that role belongs to both starter Dominik Olejniczak and backup Balsa Koprivica.
In a 98-81 win over North Florida on Tuesday, Koprivica – a 7-1, 240-pound freshman – scored a career-high 15 points in just 15 minutes.
“I’m seeing something develop there,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s responding to coaching. We’ve been challenging him, and he’s eager to learn.”
Olejniczak, a 7-0, 260-pound senior who transferred in from Mississippi, scored 11 points in 16 minutes, giving the Seminoles remarkably efficient play in the middle. In that game, the two big men shot a combined 11-for-15 from the floor, scoring 26 points with six rebounds in 31 minutes.
But Florida State’s size is not just limited to its centers. No one on the Seminoles roster is shorter than 6-4, and this is a deep team. They used 12 players in the easy victory against North Florida.
Florida State is accustomed to playing in the Orange Bowl Classic, going 8-2 in the event, including a 75-62 win over South Florida in 2014.
The Seminoles, who will be playing in the event for the eighth consecutive season, beat Saint Louis 81-59 last year.
South Florida, meanwhile, will make the trip to Sunrise coming off a 76-74 overtime loss to Utah State on Wednesday in Houston.
The Bulls led by four points toward the end of regulation, but they gave up two layups in the final 66 seconds as the Aggies forced overtime. The Bulls had two more leads in the extra session before losing on a put-back by Justin Bean with one second remaining.
The Bulls are led by 6-3 junior guard David Collins, who is averaging 15.3 points. On Sunday against Drexel, Collins became the 20th Bulls player to surpass 1,000 career points.
“It was nice to get that milestone,” said Collins, who made third-team All-American Athletic Conference last season. “But the important thing is that we got the win.”
Last season, the Bulls posted a 24-14 record, winning the third-tier CBI championship. The goal this year is to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2012, and a victory over the Seminoles would help.
The Bulls will have to stop a Seminoles team that is extremely balanced. Devin Vassell, a 6-6 sophomore wing, leads Florida State in scoring (12.3 points), just ahead of 6-4 senior point guard Trent Forrest (12.0), 6-5 junior guard M.J. Walker (10.5) and 6-8 standout freshman forward Patrick Williams (9.3).
South Florida has a 7-footer of its own in sophomore starter Michael Durr (4.5 points per game).
Other Bulls players to watch include 6-1 senior guard Laquincy Rideau (13.4 points), 6-6 junior wing Justin Brown (8.6 points) and 6-3 sophomore guard Ezacuras Dawson (6.2 points).
Brown is regarded as USF’s best shooter. Rideau is the reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year. And Dawson will be making a homecoming since he played his high school ball at South Miami. He arrived at USF this season after transferring from Oklahoma State.
–Field Level Media