Peaking too early can derail a team’s hopes of making a run in March Madness. Is Florida State in danger of playing its best basketball too soon?
Florida State basketball may have peaked too soon.
FSU hoops might lack the tradition and pageantry some of their ACC peers possess, but sleeping on Leonard Hamilton’s squad is a mistake. They are going to be a massive challenge for any team that comes up against them in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The appropriate question to ask isn’t whether FSU deserves to be mentioned among college basketball’s elite teams. Instead, fans should be asking themselves whether or not the Seminoles have enough talent and moxie to make a run to this year’s Final Four.
Everything about the way they’ve played to date indicates they are capable of making that sort of deep run into the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles sport a healthy 15-3 record and sit at the No. 15 spot in the NCAA’s Net Rankings entering Monday’s game vs. North Carolina. Hamilton’s squad is in a good position to contend for a No. 2 or No. 3 seed on Selection Sunday.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go in Florida State’s season. They are exactly halfway through their ACC schedule with a strong record of 8-2. Trips to Duke on February 7th and a home date against Louisville on Feb. 24 will give Hamilton’s squad two high-profile chances to boost their national profile.
Interestingly, this team doesn’t perfectly fit the profile of Leonard’s previous ACC title contenders at FSU. On the downside, they are not the defensive juggernaut that’s previously suffocated foes in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s edition of Florida State only ranks 62nd in the nation in points given up per game. That belies the reality the Seminole defense is good but not great.
The good news is this group is a better offensive unit than Leonard typically has to work with. Scoring 75 points per game doesn’t put FSU in the upper-echelon of college basketball, but it does give this group a chance to hang in high scoring contests when the style of game dictates.
The ability to play at a fast pace is particularly important for Florida State when they come up against the strongest teams in college basketball. That gives this team a legitimate opportunity to win this year’s ACC Tournament. Any group capable of doing that is also equipped to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Some fans might view that as a weakness of sorts. In a perfect world, Florida State would have the personnel to dictate tempo against every opponent. Hamilton doesn’t have that kind of elite talent at his disposal. Devin Vassell and Trent Forrest are both tough match-ups for opponents, but neither guard is going to take a primetime game over with his dominating skill.
That means Florida State will need to enjoy a good NCAA Tournament draw if they want to make a run to the Final Four. The same can be said for the majority of teams in the field. Almost every team that doesn’t enter the March Madness as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed needs to get a run of favorable games to contend for a national title.
The key for Florida State will be to keep playing like they have all season long. Dropping down a few lines on the NCAA bracket would drastically reduce Hamilton’s chances of guiding this team on a fairytale run. The Seminoles are a dangerous threat to make a Final Four as a three seed or higher. The same can’t be said for their chances as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.
Fortunately for fans in Tallahassee, they have one of the game’s best coaches to keep this unit on track. Hamilton has quietly become one of the best coaches in not only the ACC but the nation during his time at Florida State. There’s no logical reason to believe this year’s team will suffer from any kind of late-season swoon or malaise.
Instead, fans should expect FSU to keep playing like a strong, top-15 team all season. They are a tough out with a high floor when it comes to their performance down the stretch.
Florida State won’t be the most visually appealing team for basketball fans to watch during March Madness, but they will appeal to observers who like to see a really tough team that plays the game the right way.
Don’t expect the Seminoles to fall off. They have the roster and coaching staff required to cause big problems in March.For more