Florida State sits right on NCAA Tournament bubble

Florida State lost by 22 points to then-No. 11 Duke last month. The Seminoles need more marquee wins.

Gerry Broome

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State is right on the bubble.

The Seminoles have a resume that includes wins over a pair of top-20 teams, but also consists of a few tough-to-explain losses.

Florida State sits at 14-8 with a 5-5 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference with eight games left.

The good news? Florida State’s next three games are against Maryland, Miami and Wake Forest. The Seminoles routed the Terrapins 85-61 at home on Jan. 12 and defeated the Hurricanes on the road 63-53. Florida State hasn’t played Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons are just 4-6 in the ACC.

The bad news? Florida State had lost three straight games before dominating the ACC’s worst team, Virginia Tech, 70-50 on Wednesday night.

"I thought we had tremendous energy on the defensive end," coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We had a much better balance in our offensive attack. I thought we were much more focused and executed much better."

However, Florida State will have to survive in the short term without leading scorer Ian Miller, who did not play against the Hokies with a sprained ankle. It’s not clear how much time Miller will miss, but Aaron Thomas had 24 points — connecting on 6 three-pointers — to help the Seminoles.

Yardbarker’s Andy Bottoms places Florida State as an 11th seed in the NCAA Tournament. It clearly means the Seminoles need to do better than just tread water the rest of the way.

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Bracketologist Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com has Florida State among 13 teams he considers to be "on the fence." He notes that FSU is 2-6 against teams with an RPI in the top 50 and 5-2 against teams ranked from 50-200.

With eight games remaining, let’s take a look back at Florida State’s season and analyze what the Seminoles need to do to get back to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence.

THE CASE FOR

Two big wins on neutral courts. Florida State routed then-No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth on Nov. 21 in Puerto Rico. The Seminoles then rallied late to defeat No. 20 Massachusetts at Sunrise, Fla., on Dec. 21.

Even two close defeats to top-20 teams — an 82-80 overtime loss to Michigan and a road 67-66 loss to Florida — show Florida State can play with the nation’s top teams.

Florida State is known for defense, and the Seminoles are holding opponents to just 37 percent shooting from the field. It’s the type of defense that could frustrate a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. That’s what March Madness is all about.

THE CASE AGAINST


Florida State’s biggest wins came in November. The NCAA Selection Committee often places an emphasis on what teams do in January and February.

While Florida State is just 5-5 in conference play, two of those losses are to No. 21 Virginia (9-1 ACC). Another came at No. 11 Duke (7-3 ACC). Those are respectable defeats. Two that sting: a 74-70 loss at North Carolina State and a 53-49 home loss to Clemson. One can be considered acceptable but two are a major dent in the resume.

The Seminoles had not lost three straight ACC games since the 2006-07 season. They could use a few marquee wins down the stretch. A 15-point win at Clemson helped, but that is erased by an ugly loss at home to the Tigers.

WHAT’S AHEAD

Florida State plays at Maryland on Saturday and then has a short turnaround before returning home to play Miami on Monday night. If the Seminoles can win both games, they’re back on track. Two losses or a split would definitely hurt.

BIGGEST QUESTION

How many teams will the expanded ACC put in the NCAA tournament? Just four teams made it last season — Miami, Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.

The conference will clearly send more teams in 2014. Syracuse looks set for a No. 1 seed at 22-0. Virginia (18-5), Pittsburgh (19-4) and Duke (18-5) are all in good shape. But then the door is open for a few teams to break free from the middle of the pack. Clemson and North Carolina both have 15 wins, while Florida State, N.C. State and Wake Forest have 14 wins.

To get in, those teams need to separate themselves. Yardbarker placed six ACC teams in its tournament bracket: Syracuse, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Duke, Florida State and North Carolina.

You can follow Bob Ferrante on Twitter @bobferrante or email him at bobferrante17@gmail.com.