Penn, finally back in action, opens against No. 20 FSU

NCAA Basketball

The post-Scottie Barnes era in Tallahassee begins this week, but the Florida State basketball team feels it has a culture in place to continue its success in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The No. 20 Seminoles will open head coach Leonard Hamilton’s 20th campaign with the school on Wednesday by hosting the Penn Quakers, who haven’t played a game in 20 months.

The home side will be moving on without Barnes, an electrifying forward who was selected fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors in the 2021 NBA Draft.

The Seminoles posted an 18-7 last year after going 26-5 — and earning the top seed in the ACC tournament — in the COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 season that ended before tourney play could fully begin.

Compiling an 11-4 conference record last season with Barnes providing much of the spark, the Seminoles have established themselves as a consistent factor on the hoops landscape and a regular resident in the Top 25.

“We don’t really worry that much about respect,” said Hamilton, who owns a 378-228 record at Florida State. “Respect is something you earn. Maybe we’re not as well known.”

However, teams arriving in Florida’s panhandle have to respect what Hamilton has accomplished.

In his 19 seasons at the helm, the Seminoles have won at least 20 games on 12 occasions and advanced to the postseason 15 times (and it would have been 16 had the 2019-20 continued).

Senior forward Malik Osborne, entering his third season at Florida State after transferring from Rice, said the attitude around the program is positive and family-oriented.

“When I first came in, I saw the change to the basketball culture. I saw the difference of the emphasis that (Coach) had on the team,” Osborne said. “He really focused on the chemistry, the connectivity of the players. The culture that (he) has established, it’s like a family, a brotherhood.”

Picked second in the ACC preseason poll, the Seminoles will lean on top returning scorer Anthony Polite (10.1 points per game) and Houston transfer Caleb Mills, who led the Cougars in 2019-20 by averaging 13.2 points.

The team also has size in the paint in 7-footers Tanor Ngom, Naheem McLeod, John Butler and Quincy Ballard.

Penn, meanwhile, will be happy just to be back on the court.

The Quakers, along with their seven opponents in the Ivy League, were shut down when the conference set a precedent last November by deciding to cancel all of its winter sports due to COVID-19.

The Ivy League was also the first conference to cancel its basketball tournament in March 2020.

Sixth-year Penn head coach Steve Donahue expects to have a deep bench.

“I think we’re going to play a lot more guys than I’ve ever played consistently,” Donahue said. “I think we play 10, 11 guys here pretty consistently in the first half of games.

“We’re playing much faster on both sides of the ball, so it’s imperative that we are fresh and have the energy.”

The top returning scorer from two seasons ago is Jordan Dingle, who averaged 13.5 points per game.

The Quakers were picked fourth in the eight-team Ivy League’s preseason poll.

–Field Level Media

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