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Column: One last dance for Snaer

It might not always seem like it and, at times this season, it’s been easy to forget.

Michael Snaer drives to the basket during a recent win over Virginia.

But a recent 71-67, Senior Day victory against North Carolina State served as a great reminder: Florida State basketball – and its fans – have been blessed and maybe even spoiled in recent years.

The N.C. State game marked the last time that Michael Snaer would play a regular season game in the Donald L. Tucker Center.

He’ll take the court tonight against Clemson in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and there’s a reasonable chance that he and his teammates will be back in Tallahassee for at least the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

It’ll be good for FSU fans to have one more chance to see Snaer, but you can be sure that he’d rather be elsewhere.

Barring a miracle run to a second consecutive ACC tournament championship, there will be no visit to the NCAA tournament this season.

No chance for Snaer to finish his career on college basketball’s biggest stage.

It’s a shame, but I have a feeling that when we look back on Snaer’s career, an underwhelming senior season will be just a footnote. It won’t diminish what he’s accomplished during his time in Tallahassee, or the heights that he helped this program reach.

A former McDonald’s All-American, Snaer arrived at Florida State as one of the most-heralded recruits in program history and finished with 8.8 points per game as a freshman.

FSU will likely have to win the ACC tournament in order to receive an NCAA bid.

By his sophomore season, he was a key component on the team that won Florida State’s first NCAA tournament game since 1998 and advanced to its first Sweet 16 since 1993.

And as a junior, Snaer led FSU to its first ever ACC championship, a run highlighted by two buzzer-beating 3-pointers that would go down as some of the most infamous shots in school history.

This program hasn’t had many three-year runs better than that.

And really, has the fourth year been that bad?

OK, fine, roll your eyes. But when you’re done, consider that Snaer passed up the opportunity and the paychecks of the NBA and came back to play for a team he knew would be awfully short on experience.

No Bernard James. No Luke Loucks. No Deividas Dulkys. No Xavier Gibson.

None of the core that made FSU the country’s most-feared defensive team for nearly half a decade.

Snaer and juniors Okaro White and Ian Miller were the only members of the team with any significant experience at all.

Snaer knew all that coming in. He’s been described time and again as the most competitive and hardest working member of the team – Leonard Hamilton has affectionately called Snaer a “gym rat” at least 100 times during Snaer’s career.

Guys like Snaer don’t plan to fail. That’s just not the way that they’re wired. But somewhere in the back of his mind, even he had to know this season could play out like this.

And if he didn’t know before the year began, a loss to South Alabama in the season opener served plenty of notice.

So, yes, there have been plenty of lows this season, enough to keep Leonard Hamilton from sleeping too well for a while.

But there have been some memorable highs, too. And Snaer was responsible for just about all of them.

We shook our heads and smiled when he hit the game-winning 3-pointer against Clemson in January.

Six days later, we wondered if he could possibly do it again – and he did, sinking a 3 that lifted FSU over Maryland.

He mixed it up a week later in Atlanta, driving to the basket for a lay-up that sunk Georgia Tech.

And finally, when he hit the left-handed floater that gave FSU a comeback win over Virginia last week, there might not have even been that much tension in the arena.

Everyone knew what Snaer was going to do, and he did it.

If you’re keeping a running tally, that’s six career game-winning shots. Two last year, four this year. Two went in as the clock expired. Only one left the opponent with more than 2.6 seconds to play. All of them gave the Seminoles a much-needed victory.

Neither Florida State’s 17-14 overall record or its 9-9 ACC record are especially impressive. This year’s team didn’t come close to the standard that this program has set for itself. Hamilton even noted after the game that considering a 9-9 ACC mark an “average” year is a sign of the program’s progress. It wasn’t all that long ago that FSU basketball aspired to even finish .500 in the league.

But imagine for a moment if Snaer’s four game-winners go the other way. A 9-9 mark – which avoided the school’s first losing record in ACC play since 2007-08 – could easily have been a bleak 5-13.

Snaer’s the latest in a long line of stars to come through Tallahassee. No, this isn’t Kentucky or North Carolina. But a fraternity that includes Al Thornton, Toney Douglas, Chris Singleton, Bernard James and Michael Snaer is plenty to be proud of. And that’s to say nothing of those that came before – Ron King, Dave Cowens, Bob Sura, Sam Cassell.

It’s easy to forget just how blessed this program has been. But even as an unsatisfying campaign draws near to its conclusion, a little reminder couldn’t hurt.

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