It’s a little too easy to look at Florida State’s 71-67 win over North Carolina State in its regular season finale as a springboard into next season.
Leonard Hamilton led FSU to a championship in last year's ACC tournament.
It helped that a freshman, guard Devon Bookert, led the way with 18 points and two crucial free throws that sealed the game with 13 seconds to go.
But even if this season hasn’t always gone the way they planned, the Seminoles aren’t ready to give up on it yet. And that attitude is befitting of college basketball’s postseason, where every team is still alive as long as it keeps winning. FSU begins its postseason tonight against Clemson in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
“We’re not worried about next year,” said junior guard Ian Miller. “Next year will come. We’re worried about right now. We’re still dreaming.”
And dreaming big, too. If the Seminoles get past Clemson, who they’ve beaten twice already this season, they’ll have to contend with North Carolina and then likely Duke just to make it to the championship game, where No. 1 seed Miami will probably await.
FSU’s record against those three this season: 0-5.
It’s almost a certainty that Florida State must win the ACC tournament to receive a fifth straight NCAA bid. But the Seminoles also have reason to believe.
“We’ve talked about other teams over the years that had average seasons and got hot at the end of the season,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “But once we start practice today, we’re going back to let’s focus on what we can control. Let’s get our heads, get better. Just try to be focused on all the little things.
“But the more games we play, the better it’s going to be for our team. We just don’t want to give up on the idea that we could be one of those stories, be one of those teams. But we can’t look too far down the road.”
After sputtering for most of February, FSU won three of its last four games to close the season. Even more encouraging is that the Seminoles avenged three of their most disappointing losses – on the road at Wake Forest, Virginia and N.C. State – with corresponding wins at home.
“I think the last two games we’ve looked like the old Seminole teams,” Miller said. “How hard we’re playing. We’re diving on the floor. We’re making extra passes. We’re getting people open in spots where they can attack. We’re just playing off each other real good. As long as we play off each other like that, we can be right where we want to be. We still are the ACC champs. We can make a turnaround.”
And it’s not as if the Seminoles don’t have valuable postseason experience on the roster.
FSU’s core of veterans – senior Michael Snaer, junior Okaro White and Miller – has had an up and down season. But the three of have been a part of the NCAA tournament their entire college careers. Each played a part in last year’s ACC title.
“Since I’ve been here,” Snaer said, “we’ve always played our best basketball at the end of the season.”