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FSU Basketball: The March Madness Darkhorse

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This has been one of the craziest college basketball seasons in recent history. A Big XII school (not named Kansas) is atop the rankings, with Baylor flying high. San Diego State could realistically go into March undefeated, with the Aztecs tied for their school record ranking at four. Dayton have flown under the radar to be sixth as of writing, and West Virginia are potential Elite Eight smokey candidates if they play at their best. After six top ranked teams lost before Christmas, it’s important to remember we haven’t hit the postseason yet.

One team that seemingly hasn’t been spoken about as a realistic contender is Florida State. The Seminoles have been outright dominant on home court this season, with a 12-0 record. Overall, Coach Leonard Hamilton has the Noles running at a 20-4 record and ranked eighth in the latest top 25 polls.

Out of the four losses for Florida State, three of them could have gone either way. In Pittsburgh, FSU shot under 40% from the field and allowed Pittsburgh to go to the line 31 times. In comparison, the Seminoles went to the charity stripe 15 times.

At Indiana, FSU got blown off the court. They crept back within a couple of possessions, to then see Indiana go on a run. At Virginia, Bielsa Koprivica got ejected halfway through the second period as the Cavaliers were able to hold FSU to under 60 points for only the second time this season.

As for the Duke game, Florida State should have sealed the win against the seventh-ranked team in the country. Instead, the Noles shot 3-of-18 from three-point range, as well as 12-of-20 from the foul line.

All four of these losses have been on the road. The Seminoles have a couple of big games inside the Donald L. Tucker Center down the stretch, with Louisville making the trip down in the most notable match-up. If they can hold their home record to perfection while winning at Notre Dame and Clemson, FSU may earn the #2 seed going into the ACC Tournament; if not the NCAA Tournament.

They have not been talked about as a team that has the potential to go all the way in March. Competition such as Duke, Kansas, Gonzaga and even San Diego have all been thrown up as likely winners. The Seminoles, much like Dayton, have flown under the radar.

Coach Hamilton, despite the loss to Duke, has FSU basketball going in the right direction. Trent Forrest and Devin Vassell have been leading this team to new heights that haven’t been seen for a long time in Tallahassee. M.J. Walker has been the right hand man for these two, assisting with solid production on both sides of the ball.

In terms of depth, Wyatt Wilkes has pulled out a couple of impressive performances to help FSU across the line against Notre Dame and Miami. Anthony Polite had 14 against Virginia at home, with a career-high eight rebound performance against Miami on the road.

Patrick Williams had 14 against both Miami and North Carolina, with nine rebounds to add to his UNC game. He was also able to lead the Noles in scoring, with no Vassell, against a valiant Syracuse on Sunday afternoon to keep FSU in touching distance at the top end of the ACC.

The Noles have knocked off the defending champions in Virginia, as well as Louisville on the road. According to ESPN.com, FSU have the ninth-best strength of record in the country. That takes into account the opposition played, travel time, site and rest among other factors.

Florida State has not been in the Final Four since 1972. That would be the last time that they were ranked in the top five, until earlier this season. Since Coach Hamilton took the helm in 2002, the Noles have been in the tournament seven times, including the last three consecutive seasons. They have only been to the Elite Eight once this century, losing to Michigan in 2018.

Could Florida State make an impact in March? Yes, but it will not be just a small shockwave in the tournament. They have the numbers, the talent and the right men on the bench to go deep into the tournament. If there are a couple of upsets along the way, we very well could see FSU not only go through to the Elite Eight, but potentially to the National Championship.

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