Unranked in the preseason. Picked to finish fifth in the ACC by the media.
Now? No. 6 in the nation. Atop the ACC standings with just a few games to go.
Florida State has a chance to win its first regular-season ACC title, something it will do if the Seminoles win their final three games – beginning Saturday afternoon at Clemson.
“From the beginning, we always controlled our own destiny,” forward Malik Osborne said. “Being from a team that was unranked to being a top-10 team in the country right now, we always felt like we were in control of our destiny. It’s just now we have the opportunity to secure a regular-season championship.
“We keep having the same mindset, which is just to play one game at a time, focus on who is in front of us.”
FSU (24-4, 14-3 ACC) has done a very good job of that. The Seminoles have not lost two straight games this season, making sure that one loss never lingered as they prepared for the next opponent. And they have showcased their depth and defense in knocking off the likes of Virginia and Louisville at home while putting away upset-minded teams like UNC, Syracuse and Miami.
The Seminoles now own a school record 14 ACC wins – something they achieved in 17 games (compared to prior league schedules that included 18 ACC contests, whereas this season there are 20). FSU has already set a new mark but that standard could be elevated in the coming weeks.
FSU won’t face a ranked team the rest of the way and only one remaining opponent (Notre Dame) has a league record above .500. The Seminoles have been undefeated at home this season but also play their next two games on the road – after the trip to Clemson on Saturday there’s a final road game at Notre Dame on Wednesday before the home finale against Boston College on March 7.
Clemson has been an up-and-down team in 2019-20 but don’t let the 14-13 record fool you: the Tigers have knocked off Duke and Louisville at home this season. The Tigers feature a four-guard starting lineup, led by Tevin Mack and John Newman III, as well as a valuable forward in Aamir Sims.
And, yes, FSU did knock off Clemson 72-53 on Dec. 8 in Tallahassee. But it’s worth reminding that was almost three months ago and each team has made significant progress.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said he won’t get caught up in the hoopla of where the Seminoles are in the ACC race and thinks the players won’t either. He thinks they will be able to filter the attention but admits he is excited by the enthusiasm of the fan base, which has produced four straight home sellouts (with a fifth to come vs. BC).
“I’m happy that we’ve given our fans and alumni, supporters and the media something to talk about,” Hamilton said. “Because we all realize that we need to try to win these next three games. But you can’t win three in a row unless you take care of the first one.”
Time/TV: FSU at Clemson, 2 p.m. on Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports South, complete list of regional networks can be found here.
FSU potential starters: 6-7 G Devin Vassell (12.9 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 40 3-pointers), 6-4 G Trent Forrest (11.5 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 4.2 assists), 6-5 G M.J. Walker (10.5 ppg., 38 3s), 6-9 F Malik Osborne (6.1 ppg., 4.8 rpg.), 6-8 F RaiQuan Gray (5.9 ppg., 3.6 rpg.).
FSU reserves: 6-8 F Patrick Williams (9.3 ppg., 3.8 rpg.), 6-6 G Anthony Polite (6.0 ppg., 3.0 rpg.), 7-1 C Balsa Koprivica (4.9 ppg., 2.7 rpg.), 7-0 C Dominik Olejniczak (3.7 ppg., 2.3 rpg.),
Clemson potential starters: 6-8 F Aamir Sims (13.7 points, 7.2 rpg.), 6-4 G Clyde Trapp (5.9 ppg., 4.0 rpg.), 6-2 G Al-Amir Dawes (8.6 ppg.), 6-6 G Tevin Mack (12.2 ppg., 5.4 rpg.), 6-5 G John Newman III (9.5 ppg., 4.1 rpg.).