Florida State Basketball: Noles are the ACC’s most underrated team

Dec 31, 2016; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Dwayne Bacon (4) celebrates with Seminoles guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) after making the game winning three point field goal as Virginia Cavaliers forward Isaiah Wilkins (21) and Cavaliers guard Darius Thompson (51) look on with two seconds left in the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. The Seminoles won 60-58. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Days after Virginia knocked off Louisville, Florida State basketball upset the Wahoos in Charlottesville on Saturday.

It’s understandable that the buzz in the ACC surrounds Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville. The Blue Devils were the favorites to win the National Championship coming into the season, while Virginia, North Carolina and Louisville were viewed (and still are viewed) as Final Four contenders.

But there is a team that has flown under the radar that could be a dark horse candidate to finish in the top four of the ACC standings and potentially have a shot at making their way to Phoenix.

That team is the Florida State Seminoles.

The Noles are 14-1 on the season and won their first two conference games of the 2016-17 campaign in impressive fashion. Florida State has defeated current bubble teams, Illinois, Minnesota and Wake Forest, nearly beat George Washington by 20, knocked off Florida at home and stunned Virginia on the road.

Most importantly, FSU clearly passes the eye test.

The Seminoles have a solid blend of experience and youth and are one of the deepest teams in the Power Five conferences. They have 11 players who are currently averaging more than 10 minutes per game, have three players averaging in double figures and six players averaging between 5.2 points and 8.3 points per game.

Offensively, they have numerous weapons, including Dwayne Bacon, who scored 29 points against Virginia on Saturday and is averaging a team high 18.1 points per game. Bacon is not only an excellent shot creator, but he has significantly improved his consistency from beyond the arc (shooting 39 percent instead of the 28 percent he shot in his freshman season). That was the biggest knock on his game heading into this season, and he has certainly corrected the issue, creating more spacing for the rest of the team to operate successfully.

But Florida State skill and talent goes beyond just Bacon. Jonathan Isaac, who could very well be a lottery pick at the season’s end, is the third best player on the team. Xavier Rathan-Mayes has the honor of the number two player next to Bacon, as he provides the team with leadership, consistent play from the point guard position and solid making ability.

Meanwhile, Isaac has been terrific himself. He missed sometime due to a hip injury, but is cruising along in his freshman campaign. The 6’10” Naples, FL native is averaging 12.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 51 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep.

The Noles are already a terrific offensive unit – they average 86 points per game – but their defense is also coming alive at the right time. Defense has been a staple of Leonard Hamilton’s teams for years, and the Noles are finally hitting their stride on that end of the ball. They haven’t given up more than 72 points in their last four games.

With showdowns coming up against Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville, nothing is going to be easy for the Seminoles. These next few weeks will show everyone just how good these Noles truly are.

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