Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton is in his 13th season at the helm of the Seminoles. He's accrued a 220-157 record during his years in Tallahassee and has led FSU to the NCAA Tournament four of the last six seasons. Yet, the coach admitted he doesn't even know what the acronym CAA stands for.
The Northeastern Huskies, favored to win the Colonial Athletic Association, showed Hamilton just how good teams from the conference that produced Final Four runs from George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth can be.
"No one cares about what league you're from, it's how well you play and they played well tonight. The deserved to win," Hamilton said. "You disrespect them when you start trying to categorize them because of what league they're in. They're a good basketball team. They made the shots they had to make. They did a very good job of executing the offense and maintaining their poise and I think that's the story.
"It says an awful lot about them where they can win 7 games in their league last year and then get picked to win their conference this year. They have my respect and they have the respect from a lot of other people now too."
The NCAA Tournament is certainly the goal for this year's Huskies team. Off to a 2-0 start, following a 76-73 upset win in Tallahassee on Tuesday night, they look primed to make good on their preseason projection to win the CAA.
Head coach Bill Coen's squad struggled mightily during a loaded non-conference schedule full of high-major talent a season ago. Now, his battle-tested club is visiting power-conference opponents like FSU and playing to win, rather than just compete.
"To be able to challenge yourself against this high-level of an opponent and get some positive results, I think it's a huge building block for us," Coen said. "Everybody, when they take the court, wants to win the game. But I think this group understands that they have some tools. They have great chemistry going."
Fresh off his career-high 23-point performance in Northeastern's season-opening win against BU on Sunday, junior guard David Walker poured in 22 points for the Huskies. Redshirt-junior forward Quincy Ford added 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Walker and Ford combined to shoot 8-11 from downtown as the entire Northeastern squad drained 9-15 of its three-point attempts on the contest, a 60 percent clip.
"I'm just proud of him. The progression he's had over the years; he's just getting better and better every game," Ford said of Walker. "His shooting is amazing. His skills off the ball, his assists, his rebounding: everything has improved a whole lot. To see this new Dave is truly awesome."
What was most impressive from Northeastern during the outing was its ability to consistently deliver a counter punch. Leading 40-38 at the half, the Huskies managed to overcome an early 8-2 deficit at the U16 media timeout. In the second frame, Northeastern consistently battled FSU's tremendous length and athleticism and seemed to always come up with a gritty play on a 50/50 ball.
Just seconds after his layup attempt was rejected by FSU's 7-3 center, Boris Bojanovsky, and 3:15 left in the game, Walker picked up a loose ball at half court, sprinted down the floor and soared above the big man to drop a sledge-hammer slam, reclaiming the lead for the Huskies.
"I'm excited to see where this journey takes us," Coen said. "When you have a group of guys in a locker room that are committed to a goal and are committed to each other, great things can happen."
Off to a hot start, it sure looks like Northeastern has a fun season in store.