Following the raising of its ACC Championship banner to the rafters, the 25th-ranked Florida State Seminoles will open the 2012-13 season tonight against the South Alabama Jaguars as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
South Alabama was one of the most improved teams in the Sun Belt Conference last season, going 17-12 overall and 8-8 in conference. It was the Jaguars' best finish since winning 20 games in 2008-09, and Ronnie Arrow now has 340 wins in 21 seasons as a Division I head coach. Of those victories, 110 have come in the Sun Belt, and he needs just two more conference wins to pass Gene Bartow (111) for the all-time lead.
Florida State has developed into one of the best teams in a loaded ACC over the past few seasons. The Seminoles logged 25 wins a year ago and finished third in the regular season conference standings with a 12-4 mark. They went on to defeat Miami, Duke and North Carolina in the ACC Tournament for their first-ever conference tournament championship, which helped them earn a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. FSU hasn't lost a season opener since 2002.
This marks the second consecutive season these two teams have played each other in November, with the Seminoles dismantling the Jaguars last year, 80-39. FSU has won 10 of the 12 matchups in the all-time series.
Although South Alabama didn't wow anybody with its scoring ability last season (66.7 ppg, .424 FG percentage), it was one of the more physical mid-major teams in the country, ranking ninth in the nation in rebounding (39.7 rpg) while holding opponents to just 41.5 percent field goal shooting. The Jaguars are poised for an even better season this year, as they return all five starters. Augustine Rubit (15.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg) is one of the best forwards in the Sun Belt and he is an imposing force at the defensive end as well with more than a block per game. Mychal Ammons joins Rubit in the frontcourt after putting up stellar numbers in his freshman season (10.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg). Freddie Goldstein (11.7 ppg) is the team's top scoring threat at the guard position, and while he was inconsistent a year ago, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field, he was dangerous from the outside with nearly two three-pointers per game. Xavier Robinson (9.9 ppg) is also a key component for a team that returns nearly 80 percent of its scoring from last year.
Florida State was extremely balanced a year ago as it was the only team in the ACC to rank in the top-five in both scoring offense (69.8 ppg) and scoring defense (62.9 ppg). While it may have lost a handful of quality players from its rotation, the most important piece of the puzzle is back. Michael Snaer returns after being named MVP of the 2012 ACC Tournament looking to improve upon his team-best 14.0 ppg. In addition to playing great defense, he is a deadly shooter from three-point range (.404) as well as the free-throw stripe (.846), and the senior is primed to make a run at ACC Player of the Year. Ian Miller (10.3 ppg) will join Snaer in the backcourt after doing all of his damage from off the bench last season. The FSU forwards don't appear to be as skillful as their guards, but Okaro White (7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg) brings plenty of experience and Terrance Shannon (8.3 ppg) will be a welcomed addition back to the lineup after playing just seven games last year. Freshmen Montay Brandon (6-7, 195) and Aaron Thomas (6-5, 195) will also see immediate time in the rotation.