Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Noles Face Crucial Stretch in ACC; by Garry Smits

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Noles Face Crucial Stretch in ACC; by Garry Smits

Article excerpt

Byline: garry.smits@jacksonville.com

Florida State's basketball team has proven one thing this season: it can beat or lose to any ACC team without it being a surprise.

After yet another close loss, 59-55 to No. 2 Virginia on Wednesday, the Seminoles (17-7, 6-6) are at a crossroads with six league games left. It begins on Saturday when they play at Notre Dame (14-10, 4-7), the first of three games in five on the road.

"We need to make sure we win our fair share," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said after the loss to Virginia. "We don't have a whole lot more room for error if we want to be in position for some postseason opportunities."

FSU is currently pegged as an eighth seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN's Joe Lunardi and a seventh seed by CBS Sports' Jerry Palm. The schedule seems favorable to meet Hamilton's goal, with three games against teams with losing conference records (the Irish, Pittsburgh and Boston College) and another game against N.C. State (16-8, 6-5).

But the Seminoles have already lost once to Boston College, fell to Wake Forest (2-10 in the conference) and still have to play No. 16 Clemson (20-4, 9-3) twice.

At this point in the season, it's a matter of which team will show up: the team that beat North Carolina, Louisville on the road, and Miami and Syracuse in overtime, or the team that lost to BC and Wake.

FSU can make a case for overachieving. The Noles lost three starters from last year's NCAA Tournament team, Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jonathan Isaac and forward Phil Cofer and guard Braian Angola are the only seniors who play significant minutes.

Three freshmen (center Ike Obiagu, forward Mfiondu Kabangele and guard M.J. Walker) and two sophomores (guards C.J. Walker and Trent Forrest) are in the rotation.

Despite that inexperience, FSU won its first 11 games, lost by a point to Oklahoma State, and entered the ACC schedule 13-1. The Seminoles then split their first two league games, losing to Duke at Cameron Indoor Arena and beating North Carolina. …

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