Florida State women look to make good on president's pick
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State's women's basketball team has plenty of fans rooting for them to make its first appearance in the Final Four. But few come bigger than President Barack Obama.
The president picked the Seminoles on ESPN to upset top-seeded Baylor in Saturday's Dallas Regional semifinal en route to advancing to the Final Four.
''This is my one big upset. I'm thinking Baylor may be vulnerable,'' he said. ''Florida State had a bad loss at the end of the season but I think they are under-seeded. I'm going to give them a shot.''
The fifth-seeded Seminoles (25-7) are making their second straight Sweet 16 appearance for the first time in school history. In College Station, Texas, last weekend they beat Middle Tennessee State in the first round before defeating Texas A&M.
''It's pretty cool when you get that kind of exposure for your program. I'm excited for Florida State,'' coach Sue Semrau said. ''People's opinions are people's opinions. But right now it's about Florida State. And the fact that we're getting our name out there.''
Junior forward Ivey Slaughter added that the Obama pick was ''humbling'' and that it gave the team ''a boost of confidence.''
Guard Brittany Brown agrees.
''Last year, I think he picked us to lose to South Carolina (which happened in the Elite Eight). That's an extra confidence boost to know that your president picked you to go to the Final Four,'' Brown said. ''I don't think it's anything to make us nervous . just make you happy and take it with a grain of salt, I guess.''
Florida State was ranked 10th in the Top 25 in mid-February but closed the season by dropping three of its final five. Instead of being in position to host the first two rounds, the Seminoles had to go on the road.
A key to Florida State's turnaround has been the play of Leticia Romero and Adut Bulgak. Romero, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, averaged 17 points, four rebounds and five assists in the first two games and Bulgak, a 6-4 senior center, is averaging 16.5 points and 11 rebounds. They have combined to shoot 22 of 41 from the field.
Brown, a junior who has emerged as the Seminoles best defensive player, has excelled on both ends, averaging 13 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
''One of the things that we did in those two weeks is we re-established our roles based on the performances that people had had,'' Semrau said. ''The props go to the defensive end and rebounding. And I think that our emphasis on that is much more important.''
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey has taken being the only non-top seed not picked for the Final Four on Obama's bracket in stride. She has joked with her players by telling them that she still believes in them even if their president doesn't.
After the Lady Bears (35-1) won their first game over Idaho on Friday, Mulkey did take some satisfaction in one of Obama's Final Four picks in the men's tournament getting an early exit.
''Obama is the kiss of death. Did you see Michigan State got beat? Didn't he pick them to go to the Final Four? So I was kind of glad he didn't pick us,'' Mulkey said.
Associated Press writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.