Finally, a chance for a breather for the Seminoles of Florida State.
Fans of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets probably won’t see things that way when they host the No. 6 team in the nation Wednesday night (7 pm ET, ACC Network) at the McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, but the fact of the matter is it will be the first time FSU has played an unranked opponent since the turn of the calendar year.
Yes, 2017 has brought trials and tribulations aplenty for head coach Leonard Hamilton and his precocious crew from Tallahassee, Florida. However, his team — which boasts four underclassmen among its top five scorers — has handled the adversity with aplomb. And it seems that a different player stepped up and proved to be the difference-maker on each night.
Here’s a quick look back at the six-game stretch, which saw the Seminoles go 5-1 overall.
- Sophomore guard and lead scorer Dwayne Bacon (17.4 ppg) scored 26 of his 29 points after the halftime buzzer, including a go-ahead, step-back 3-point jumper with four seconds left to lift FSU past Virginia, 60-58.
- Second-year guard Terance Mann led all scorers with 22 points and nine boards as a near double-double powered his squad to another big W against Virginia Tech, 93-78.
- Florida State hosted Duke in what was a top 10 matchup at the time, but the ’Noles showed their dominance in a 16-point win (88-72) behind 21 points from junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
- The lone blip in this stretch came in a matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels. FSU would fall 96-83, and the free-throw line disparity was one culprit in the loss (UNC hit 26, FSU had 12).
- Despite a torrid 3-point shooting night for Notre Dame (15 3-pointers), FSU managed to stave off a defeat behind freshman Jonathan Isaac’s near triple-double (23 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks), 83-80.
- Last but not least, Isaac and Bacon each pumped in 16 points to pace Florida State past Louisville, 73-68.
When it comes to marking your territory in the ACC, FSU has certainly run the gauntlet. And given the team already has seven wins against the RPI top 25 — the next closest squad only has four — the NCAA tournament is basically a foregone conclusion.
That may be, but if you ask the ‘Noles there’s no looking ahead in the ACC Conference. FSU shares the top spot in the conference at 6-1 with Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Tar Heels own the tiebreaker.
After jumping four spots to No. 6 in the latest AP Top 25 — Florida State’s highest ranking since reaching No. 6 during the 1992-93 season — the goal continues to be a conference title.
“We love seeing that little No. 6 next to our name at the end of the day,” third-year guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday, “but we’re trying to win an ACC championship and a national championship.”
Head coach Leonard Hamilton, who is in his 15th season, told the Sentinel: “I’m happy about where we are. I believe our guys are making progress. But this is not anytime to get a tuxedo on and start taking any bows.”
Up next for the Seminoles, the aforementioned trip to play against a young Georgia Tech squad. The Yellow Jackets have managed a few quality wins at home over ACC opponents (UNC and Clemson), so the Seminoles need to be ready for a fight.
But to be blunt: Things are going swimmingly for FSU faithful. Bacon has scored in double figures in every game this year; Isaac is on a streak of three straight double-doubles; Rathan-Mayes has 11 games with five assists or more; Mann continues to provide stellar shooting from the off-ball guard spot (60 percent); and PJ Savoy has at least a pair of 3-pointers in four of the team’s last five games.
The upcoming three-game road trip (at GT, at Syracuse, at Miami (Fla.)) features a few potential pitfalls — especially since FSU has played the fewest true road games (two) of any team in conference — but fans shouldn’t expect too much turmoil for the team from Tallahassee.
Arguably the most difficult stretch of the college season — for any team in the country — is over. The contributions are coming from all over the roster, but only time will tell what FSU’s young bunch learned in the process.