It is common for borderline NCAA tournament teams to vacillate between wins and losses, struggling for traction in the chase for an at-large berth while never rendering themselves irrelevant.
It’s safe to say Florida State isn’t a common team on the edge of the field.
The Seminoles (16-11, 6-9 ACC) are an incredibly streaky bunch, and they bring a four-game slide into Thursday’s visit to Duke. Their recent stretch, with setbacks against Syracuse, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, transformed Leonard Hamilton’s bunch from securely perched in the field to one with plenty of work in front of it in the next two and a half weeks.
The odd thing is a strong Florida State finish isn’t an outrageous possibility. This is a team that rattled off six consecutive wins in December, dropped its first three ACC games, won the next two, lost two more and then claimed four consecutive victories before its current slide.
The whims of the schedule have something to do with the Seminoles’ flightiness, but the overall struggles remain a little surprising. This is arguably Florida State’s best offensive team since 2007 (the end of the Al Thornton era), and the combination of point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley showed considerable promise in nonconference play.
The real problem is at the defensive end, which was once unthinkable for a Hamilton-coached team in Tallahassee. The Seminoles haven’t fielded an elite defense since 2012 – not-so-coincidentally their last season with an NCAA bid – but the current offensive talent is capable enough for Florida State to get by without an oppressive defense.
What it can’t do, though, is give up 1.21 points per possession to Georgia Tech and 1.22 points per trip to Virginia Tech, like it did last week, and expect to prosper. Both teams dealt costly losses to the Seminoles.
Now for the sobering news: Florida State’s next two games are at Duke (20-7, 9-5) and at home against Notre Dame (18-8, 9-5). Those happen to be the nation’s two most efficient offensive teams, according to KenPom.com. The Seminoles aren’t a slouch offensively, but they need to stop somebody, and soon, if they hope to salvage an NCAA tournament bid this year.
Wake Forest forward Devin Thomas, who has started 121 of his 122 games with the Demon Deacons, was suspended for two games last week. That will likely cost him any chance to match the school record for games started, which is shared by which two players?
Duke forward Brandon Ingram would no doubt rather forget his 10-turnover outing in Saturday’s 71-64 loss at Louisville. While no other ACC player has committed 10 turnovers in a contest this season, it does mark the sixth time in the past 10 years it happened.
The most recent ACC player to do so was Wake Forest’s Thomas, who committed 10 turnovers against Florida last season. Before Ingram, the last time an ACC player had 10 giveaways in a league game was 2010-11, when Durand Scott hit that number against Georgia Tech.
The other 10-turnover showings in a single game over the past decade belonged to Wake Forest’s C.J. Harris (2010-11 against Virginia Commonwealth), Florida State’s Jason Rich (in the 2008 NIT against Akron) and N.C. State’s Gavin Grant (2006-07 against Cincinnati).
No one entered the week assured of a double bye in the ACC tournament, but there is more clarity at the back end of the league.
Wake Forest (11-16, 2-13) and Boston College (7-20, 0-14) cannot climb out of the bottom four in the standings and will play in the opening round of the conference tournament. It is still possible for N.C. State (14-13, 4-10) to escape the tournament’s first day, but it would lose any tiebreakers with Florida State, Georgia Tech and/or Virginia Tech, and has a slim margin of error if it wishes to avoid a Tuesday game in Washington, D.C.
The Wake Forest record for career games started is 127. Tim Duncan (1993-97) and Travis McKie (2010-14) share the mark.