Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates sees a lot of good basketball in the Big East. When he watches Florida State, he sees a team that would fit right in.
That's not a knock on the Atlantic Coast Conference, and he's not making a case for more realignment. It's just that in a conference full of talented offensive teams, the Seminoles' defensive style really stands out.
"To me, they were the best defensive team in the conference, which was why they were so successful this year," Gates said. "So I think, out of all those schools, Florida State would best fit in with the Big East by the way they play. So we'll just get prepared for this game as if we were getting prepared for conference."
Cincinnati (25-10) knows it won't be easy getting by the defense that led Florida State (25-9) to its first ACC Tournament championship a week ago. The sixth-seeded Bearcats and third-seeded Seminoles meet Sunday night in the third round of the NCAA Tournament's East Regional. The winner will face No. 2 seed Ohio State in Pittsburgh on Thursday in the round of 16.
"They're one of the top five teams in America every year in field-goal percentage defense," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "It's going to be hard to get a basket against them. We've got to make sure we return the favor."
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton thinks Cincinnati can mix it up on both offense and defense.
The Bearcats are a guard-heavy team that can penetrate and get the ball inside to Gates, as well as shoot mid-range jump shots and 3-pointers. They can easily adjust from man-to-man defense to zone and the press to keep an opponent guessing.
"This is a multidimensional-type team that is most difficult for teams to match up against," Hamilton said.
Entering the tournament, the Seminoles were ranked sixth among Division I teams for their field-goal percentage defense. Their opponents hit just 38.1 percent of their shots and average 62.9 points per game.
"They're big, so we figure we can get out and get some easy buckets and play a transition game," Cincinnati guard Dion Dixon said. "That will be major for us in this game compared to their size."
Florida State and Cincinnati, both former members of the now defunct Metro Conference, have had a taste of success in recent NCAA Tournaments and are ready for more.
Florida State is playing in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles lost their first game two years in a row before advancing to last year's regional semifinals, where they lost to VCU. They came from behind to beat No. 14 seed St. Bonaventure 66-63 on Friday.
Cincinnati returned to the Big Dance last season after a six-year absence but lost in its second game to eventual national champion Connecticut. The Bearcats fought off a second-half rally by No. 11 seed Texas to win 65-59 on Friday.
"You know, they're physical, athletic. They can get out and run," Seminoles forward Okaro White said. "Their style of play, we have seen it in the ACC a bit. But I think the way we play defense and come prepared, we can handle their style of play."
Cronin has no doubt Florida State can handle his team's style of play because of the way Hamilton and his players can adjust on the fly. He saw it when St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson hit his first six shots, then struggled to get a look late when the game was on the line.
"St. Bonnie's was trying to get him the ball. Florida State knew it. They smelled it out," Cronin said. "You're not going to be able to live off your set plays against Florida State. You might get them here or there, but the players are going to make adjustments on their own because they're so trained, they're so well-coached and so locked in on the defensive end."