Florida St chasing 1st ACC regular season title

All the tickets are sold and little remains except the wait for

Florida State’s game against fifth-ranked Duke on Thursday in what

has shaped up as one of the most important games in Florida State

basketball history.

The 15th-ranked Seminoles (19-7, 10-2 ACC) have already defeated

the Blue Devils (23-4, 10-2), North Carolina State, Wake Forest and

No. 7 North Carolina this season. Florida State needs a second win

over Duke to complete a sweep of its rivals from the state of North

Carolina and keep its hopes alive for the school’s first ACC

regular season championship.

The high stakes have made Duke’s visit one of the most highly

anticipated games for Florida State in decades.

One might have to go all the way back to Jan. 27, 1970 at tiny

Tully Gym where the Seminoles handed Jacksonville University its

only regular season loss that year with an 89-83 win that the

Dolphins avenged 85-81 three weeks later. It was a JU team led by

7-2 Artis Gilmore that finished second to UCLA while Florida State

finished its season 23-3 and then two years later also lost to UCLA

in the NCAA title game. Both games that winter are remembered as


Former coach Dean Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels completed a

sweep of the Seminoles in the 1992-93 season to lock up the regular

season ACC title with an 86-76 victory on Feb. 27, 1993. The

Seminoles advanced to the final eight that season before losing to


Duke, on the other hand, lives off of big games days and hostile


”They generate that kind of hype regardless of where they go,”

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Tuesday. ”They’ve been

in these type of games over and over and over again.”

Hamilton said Duke has improved since Florida State’s

last-second 76-73 win last month in Durham, N.C. on Michael Snaer’s

3-pointer as time expired.

”They have gotten themselves into a rhythm they seem to be

comfortable with,” Hamilton said. ”We’re playing at a high level

and they are too.”

The emergence of sophomore guard Ian Miller as a difference

maker along with Hamilton’s decision to move 6-8 Okaro White back

to power forward has paid big dividends in Florida State’s stretch

drive. Miller, who missed the first 11 games while academically

ineligible, is second in scoring at 10.5 points a game while

averaging a bit over 23 minutes playing time. Snaer is the leading

scorer at 13.5 points a game.

”This team is really deep,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said

during the weekly ACC coaches’ conference call on Monday. ”They

come at you with nine or ten guys so they are fresh.”

The Seminoles have won 10 of their last 11 games and are no

longer able to ambush anyone, establishing themselves over the past

four seasons with the third best record in ACC play. Since the

start of the 2008-2009 season, Florida State is 41-19 in ACC

regular season play, trailing only Duke and North Carolina.

Not only is first place at stake Thursday night with the regular

season winding down, so are a couple of smaller streaks of lesser


The Seminoles are 6-0 at home in the ACC while Duke is 6-0 on

the road in conference games. Florida State is after its third

straight win in the series.

”It’s the next step for an ACC championship,” Miller said.

”We can’t be complacent. We have to turn it up a notch.”