For a few weeks at least, they'll be able to focus on nothing but basketball.
“This is a very important time of year for us," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
And for the Florida State Seminoles, that means an opportunity to not only right their ship, but also generate some positive momentum leading into Atlantic Coast Conference play.
FSU's fall semester ended Dec. 14 and the Seminoles will have a stretch of five games – including an ACC tilt at Clemson – before classes resume.
That stretch begins tonight at home against Louisiana-Monroe (7 p.m., ESPN 3).
“This is a very important time of year for us because being where we are, we're in a similar position to where we were last year and with a different kind of team,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We need to use all these days now to try to improve and prepare. Another week or so, we're looking at being in the ACC race.”
Florida State has a recent history of using December and January as catalysts for the rest of the season.
A year ago, the Seminoles finished December with an 8-5 record and were reeling after a home loss to Princeton. They then won 11 of their next 13, contended for a regular season ACC title for much of the race and won the ACC Tournament in Atlanta in March.
The year before, Florida State sputtered through early January with ugly losses to Auburn and Virginia Tech before a win over Duke sparked the Seminoles on a run that culminated with a Sweet 16 appearance.
Hamilton, though, recognizes that if FSU is to conjure up similar success, it will have to come a bit differently – those teams were loaded with experienced players. The current iteration is heavy on newcomers.
“When you look at some of the ACC teams, there are more experienced teams coming back, kind of like we were last year,” he said. “North Carolina State, Miami, Maryland has a few guys that have been in their system for a while, and those teams can be a little ahead of you.”
Junior forward Okaro White said that while normal students spend their winter break back home, the team stays together which can allow the players to be come closer both on and off the court.
“This time of year is normally a family time,” White said. “We're not back home so we're up here, all together, nothing else to really focus on but basketball. This is a time that needs to be taken advantage of because we have that extra time to focus on nothing but basketball.”