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Storylines, stats as FSU pursues ACC title at Notre Dame

Win and the title is Florida State’s. That’s not pressure. To Leonard Hamilton, it’s an opportunity that the Seminoles should embrace and enjoy.

FSU (15-4, 11-3 ACC) is just a victory over Notre Dame (9-14, 6-11) on Saturday at noon from adding an ACC regular season champions banner at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

“We have to value it,” Hamilton said. “We have to put it in perspective. And to be in a unique opportunity to participate for a championship in a league in a prestigious league like the ACC is beyond our imagination. to have an opportunity to do that we have to appreciate and respect that and not let this moment pass without saying that you gave it all you had, in order to make this a reality.”

Can they do it again? Two months ago, nobody was sure what to expect. The Seminoles had lost at Clemson on Dec. 29 and was set for a matchup with Duke as January began. But the COVID pause, what in reality was the first set of postponements, brought uncertainty. Could the Seminoles accentuate their strengths and depth and work on their shortcomings? As it turned out, FSU quickly found its rhythm and went 5-1 in January. Even after a second COVID pause the Seminoles are, yes, 5-1.

FSU hasn’t played its best basketball away from Tallahassee. The Seminoles have played well, well enough enough or very well for a half before faltering. Regardless, it has been a very unusual year for the ACC and upsets have been quite frequent.

The most consistent team has been FSU, which has knocked off the best of the best in the league or at least split series vs. Georgia Tech and UNC. FSU is in position to win a 12th ACC game for a third straight season, and this one would happen with a schedule featuring fewer games. The Seminoles were 13-5 in ACC play during the 2018-19 season and finished with a school record for ACC wins in a season with a 16-4 mark in 2019-20.

FSU would also join recent back-to-back ACC regular season champs like Virginia (2018 and ’19), UNC (2016 and ’17) and Virginia (2014 and ’15). If the Seminoles can do it on Saturday, it reinforces the Hamilton way of program-building and coaching.

“I think our coaches recruit unbelievable people before they look at what type of basketball player he is,” forward Harrison Prieto said after Wednesday’s game. “I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we’re so successful. There’s just good people that have been in this locker room the last five years.”

Red-hot from long range

Led by M.J. Walker’s career-high-tying six 3-point field goals, the Seminoles made 13 shots from long range (tying a season-best) in their 93-64 win over Boston College on Wednesday night. The Seminoles enter Saturday’s game at Notre Dame ranked first in the ACC in 3-point field goal percentage and are fifth in the conference statistics as they average 8.5 made 3-points shots in their 19 games. FSU has made 12 or more 3-point field goals in five different games – the Seminoles are shooting 50.8 percent from the 3-point line (62 of 122) and are averaging 90.2 points scored per game in that span of five games.

Leading ACC in FG percentage defense

FSU leads the ACC in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 39.873 percent from the floor. The Seminoles are 23rd in the nation in that category and the only league school in the top 50. (Clemson is 69th.)