TALLAHASSEE – Sue Semrau has built an impressive program at Florida State. In her 21st year leading the Seminoles, she has guided the program to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, won the ACC Coach of the Year award four times and was named the National Coach of the Year in 2015 by three different organizations.
But Semrau knows something about mid-majors. From 1991-94 she was an assistant coach at Northern Illinois helping that program advance to three straight NCAA Tournaments. And while she's made her mark at a school in a Power 5 conference, she has an appreciation and a respect for the mid-majors who have pulled off upsets at this year's NCAA Tournament on both the women's and men's side.
“I think it's fantastic," Semrau said. "I coached at Northern Illinois a few years back and we had that kind of success in the tournament and you look at the men's side and it's been happening for a while. I think it's really good for the game, for women's basketball. There's a lot of really good teams and really good coaches out there and you've got to be prepared every single game in the NCAA Tournament."
That respect carries over to Florida State's matchup with the University at Buffalo in the second round of the tournament Monday night. There will be no overlooking the Bulls nor any extra pressure to perform as the higher seed playing on their home court.
"I've been doing this a long time so I don't feel any added pressure because I don't expect us to just be able to show up because we're at home or because we're the higher seed," Semrau said. "I hope that my experience has bled out into our preparation. I think these guys are extremely mature and it's gonna be a great basketball game. All of the other things that people want to talk about we're not listening to."
* * *
Truth time: Many of Buffalo's players did not realize the pep band belting out their fight song or leading their cowbell chant wasn't actually their pep band.
"I didn't even notice because they had Buffalo shirts on," UB junior Cierra Dillard said. "Obviously I thought it was our band."
Nope. It was FSU Seminole Sound, the pep band that plays for Florida State. After the Seminoles first-round game, the band changed into Buffalo T-shirts and provided the sound for the Bulls in the second game in Tucker Civic Center on Saturday.
WE ARE BUFFALO!!
— FSU Seminole Sound (@FSUSemSound) March 17, 2018
"It was really nice for them to do that," UB senior Stephanie Reid said. "That's great sportsmanship and that's what athletics is all about. I didn't actually know that until this morning when I saw it on Twitter. I thought we had a pretty good pep band and you know, it was them, so that was cool to see. They gave us a lot of love, so it'll be funny tomorrow to see them move opposite."
Sadly, the Florida State band will be playing in support of Florida State when the teams meet Monday night in the second round. But both sides are trying to get Buffalo some musical support, possibly with the community marching band Lofty Pursuits coming to answer the last-minute cowbell emergency need.
* * *
The local media have been intrigued by Buffalo's "joie de vivre" on the court and asked players and coaches about the line between having fun and staying focused.
Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack took the opportunity to share another one of her life lessons taught through basketball.
"I think this is a game where you can emphasize what you are trying to do through life by having fun," Legette-Jack said. "We also talk about when there is a time when you are playing in a game, and the kid in the top left corner, who has never seen a game before, is going to learn the game through you. She might find you on the court or on the bench. What is she going to pick up from you? That is your responsibility as an athlete. To show her that, yes it is a game and we are going to have fun. ... She is going to notice what it looks like and is going to make a decision: 'Am I going to play this game or not?’
"I think that is what we try and represent. Yes, we are going to struggle. Yes, we are going to have success. Yes, we are going to make shots and we are going to miss shots. What will our character be when that expires? I think that if we make shots, it's a celebration. If we miss shots, we are going to go back and play defense. When we turn it over, get back and get it. That's what we talk about all the time.
"On top of that, there are some personalities on this team. You try and put a personality in a bottle, eventually it’s going to combust. So I say, there is no lid; the bottle is open. Just go do you."