Meet the new front-runners in the ACC title chase: It’s Florida State, which opened league play by getting spanked by 20 at Clemson.
OK, perhaps we’re overstating the case a bit. But Florida State just finished one of the best weeks in school history and has to be taken seriously as a league championship contender.
A week after eviscerating North Carolina by 33 in Tallahassee, the Seminoles shocked Duke 76-73 on Saturday, ending Duke’s 45-game home winning streak. It was the second-longest such streak in school history.
FSU has won four in a row since losing to Clemson, and the reason the Seminoles should be mentioned as a legit ACC title contender is that they don’t play UNC again and get Duke in Tallahassee on Feb. 23.
“It was a big win for us as we try to continue to keep becoming a program of significance, not only in the ACC but on a national basis,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said after the upset.
FSU went into the season with relatively lofty expectations, not surprising considering it made it to the Elite Eight before falling to VCU in last season’s NCAA tourney. But the Seminoles had a rocky start, losing three times in late November and also dropping a home game in late December to Princeton, which is 8-8.
Then came the conference-opening debacle at Clemson, which dropped FSU’s record to 9-6.
But the Seminoles have regrouped since that setback. Defense is a constant with Hamilton-coached teams, and that aspect has been solid all season, even in the losses. But the offense has picked up of late, with FSU averaging 78.3 points and shooting 47.8 percent from the field during the winning streak; the season averages are 72.0 and 45.4, respectively.
“They’re really good,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Saturday’s game. “It’s no question about that. We knew it coming in and we know it going out. Even if we had won, they’re really good.
“They’re not really good because they beat us; they’re just really good. They can play with anybody.”