Florida State has no margin for error if it wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.
Going into Wednesday’s game against Georgia Tech the Seminoles need to win three of their final five to finish at least .500 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. There was a players-only meeting after Sunday’s 67-65 loss to 11th-ranked Miami as Florida State squandered chances to win in the final two minutes.
“We have to realize we know games are going to come down to a possession and the little things,” said freshman Malik Beasley, who leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game. “We still have five games left. There is plenty of time to get a streak and momentum going.”
Beasley hopes Monday’s meeting has the same effect as the last one, which was held after a three-point loss at Iowa. The Seminoles won six straight after that one to go into conference play with a 10-2 record.
Coach Leonard Hamilton said after Sunday’s loss that it was the most disappointing that he’s seen his team following a game but has been encouraged with how they have bounced back in practice the past couple days.
“It’s been more obvious that we got to be in the moment and focused on every possession. We also can’t worry about what has happened in the past,” Hamilton said after Tuesday’s practice.
In many of this week’s bracket projections, Florida State (16-9, 6-7 ACC) is considered one of the last four teams to make the field. It doesn’t have a bad loss on the resume — all nine have been to teams currently in the top 100 of the RPI — but the Seminoles are only 2-7 against top 50 teams. Florida State is going to need at least one or two more to get itself off the bubble as the most recent occurred on Jan. 17 against Virginia.
This week, the challenge for Florida State is holding serve and winning games in which the Seminoles should be favored.
Georgia Tech (13-12, 3-9 ACC) is 86th in RPI while Virginia Tech, which the Seminoles play on Saturday, is 123rd. According to STATS, an ACC team has reached the NCAA Tournament 14 times since 1997 with a conference record of .500 or worse.
Florida State has won 10 straight against the Yellow Jackets, which is its longest win streak against a conference opponent.
Beasley and fellow freshman Dwayne Bacon are averaging a combined 32.4 points per game, but were held to 15 against Miami — their lowest combined output of the season. Beasley was held to a season-low 6 points, which was the first time in 25 games he had not scored in double figures.
Beasley should have a little extra motivation against Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-5 guard grew up just outside Atlanta in Alpharetta and was the Georgia Class 1A Player of the Year.
If there is one thing that has pleased Hamilton, it has been better bench production. Devon Bookert is averaging 11.2 points in conference games and Benji Bell is averaging 6.0 points in the past three contests.
The road gets tougher for the Seminoles after this week.
Florida State will face ranked opponents in at least two of its final three regular-season games. The Seminoles travel to No. 20 Duke on Feb. 25 before hosting Syracuse (Feb. 27) and No. 19 Notre Dame (March 5).
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.