After flopping against the first marquee program it faced, Tulane's men's basketball team will get a second chance on Sunday in Tampa, Florida.
Unranked Florida State (8-0) is no North Carolina in terms of tradition, but the Seminoles, coming off a 17-point shellacking of fifth-ranked Florida on the road, are one of seven remaining unbeaten teams nationally and were a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament a year ago.
In other words, they could hang the same type of 97-73 score on Tulane as the Tar Heels inflicted a week ago if the Green Wave (7-2) does not play better.
Coach Mike Dunleavy expects a completely different performance at Amalie Arena, the home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, than at the Dean Smith Center.
“Other than hopefully the players on the team, I may have been the only person in the building who thought we could win the (North Carolina) game,” he said. “We know their stuff like the back of our hand. We play the same style. FSU has great size and great depth, and they put a lot of pressure on you if you make mistakes or don’t box out. I feel like if we play our game, we’ll get a victory.”
At the very least, they want to look like they belong on the same floor.
“We didn’t take North Carolina as a loss; we took it as a lesson,” said swing man Melvin Frazier, who averages a team-best 18.8 points on 61.0 percent shooting. “We are 100 percent better this year than last year. We are a totally different team. It’s going to be a good year for us.”
Tulane already has won more games than it did in Dunleavy’s first season, but none of those victories have come against good teams. Miami (Ohio), listed 124th by RealtimeRPI.com, is the Wave’s highest-rated victim and the only one with a winning record.
FSU is several notches higher. The Seminoles were expected to drop off from last year after losing their three leading scorers, but they have played even better to this point, ranking 15th nationally in scoring at 89.0 points and 23rd in field goal percentage defense (37.7).
Seven of their top eight scorers are 6-foot-5 or taller, with 6-6 guard Terance Mann (16.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists) typifying their approach. He torched Florida for 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting.
“The key is going to be us rebounding, taking care of the basketball and playing transition defense,” Dunleavy said. “They play fast and generate speed with their pressure. We have to handle that, and we feel like we know how to handle it.”
Still, Tulane has a tough assignment.
“We just want to come out and make a statement that we belong,” said guard Jordan Cornish, who had a season-high 18 points on Wednesday against Southern. “We just have to play the right way.”
Although Frazier has cooled off from 3-point range, hitting 2 of 12 from long range in the past four games after starting the year 10 of 18, he continues to play efficiently.
His shooting percentage is the third-highest in the country for players listed as guards, trailing only FSU’s Terance Mann (65.1 percent) and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson (63.7 percent). Frazier leads Tulane in points, rebounds (7.4) and steals (2.3), is second in blocked shots (1.0) and is third in assists (2.8).
“Coach wants me to keep it consistent and just get teammates involved,” he said. “If my shot isn’t going, I just go to the goal or pass it to somebody else.”
Frazier posted his third double-double of the season against Southern.
“He shouldn’t have any bad games period based on all the areas of a stat sheet that he can fill up,” Dunleavy said.