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Despite end of six-game grind, FSU still faces daunting schedule

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The six-game grinder in the Florida State men’s basketball schedule is now complete. No ACC team in 24 years faced the challenge of so many consecutive games against top 25 teams.

It says a great deal that FSU was able to win five of those games.

With Saturday’s wire-to-wire 73-68 win over No. 12 Louisville, the level of competition diminishes somewhat. At least on paper.

While the next three games are against teams outside the top 25, all three are on the road. And that’s where trouble could come.

Playing on the road brings its own challenges, no matter the opponent. The chance to knock off a top 10 team brings sufficient motivation. Florida State had better be prepared for that.

None of their last six opponents were taken lightly. It was not difficult to be emotionally ready to face top 25 teams Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville.

Upsets often come when the emotional gas tank is depleted or an inferior opponent is taken lightly.

The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1 ACC) will be a solid top 10 team when they show up in Atlanta on Wednesday night to face Georgia Tech. They will go into the game as heavy favorites.

North Carolina was also a big favorite against the Yellowjackets on New Year’s Eve, but went back to Chapel Hill with an 85-73 loss. Georgia Tech is 9-3 at home, but they will be ready to ambush the Seminoles.

It is always difficult to play in Syracuse, but Florida State will go there next Saturday. The Orange are only 10-10, with four of those losses coming at the Carrier Dome.

The Seminoles will be in Miami on February 1 to face the Hurricanes. Miami is 12-5 this year (with three home losses) heading into Sunday’s game at Duke.

No one should doubt they will give FSU their best effort.

While none of these three games will define their season, they will go a long way into determining FSU’s seeding in the NCAA tournament. Coach Leonard Hamilton knows why his team is successful and why they should finish strong.

“This team communicates with each other well. They hold each other accountable,” he said after the Louisville victory. “There’s really no drama with them. They believe in each other.”

He believes his team understands that a game against Louisville will be a different game against Georgia Tech. His team understands that “each game takes on a different personality.”

In addition to the next three games, four other road games remain on the schedule, including trips to Notre Dame and Duke.

It is difficult to forget this is a young team unaccustomed to being in big-time games coming down the stretch. Their go-to guys are a freshman (Jonathan Isaac) and a sophomore (Dwayne Bacon). Junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes is an old man within this group.

While a tough stretch of the schedule is over, life in the ACC means there are no nights off. The remainder of the schedule will reveal the true personality of this talented team.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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