Florida State begins tough stretch vs. Virginia Tech (Jan 07, 2017)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Congratulations, Florida State: You made the biggest move up the AP Top 25 Poll last week of any team in the country, going up eight spots from No. 20 after an upset victory at No. 12 Virginia.

Your reward?

Oh, just five straight games against Top 25 ACC teams.

No big deal!

“I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything quite like this in the history of our conference,” Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said recently. “It’s a great league. The best league in the history of college basketball. And it’s getting better.”

The Seminoles (14-1 overall, 2-0 in the ACC) are one of seven ACC teams currently ranked in the Top 25 – the most of any conference in the nation. Before the end of January, Florida State will have played each of the six other programs in the poll – one right after another.

The gauntlet started last Sunday as the Cavaliers couldn’t stop Seminoles leading scorer Dwayne Bacon en route to his career-high 29 points — including the game-winning 3-pointer with just 2 seconds left.

And now the gauntlet continues Saturday at home against No. 21 Virginia Tech (12-2, 1-1) at the Donald L. Tucker Center, where Florida State has yet to lose all year. The Hokies enter the game just having knocked off then-No. 5 Duke last week, but they followed it up with a stinker of a showing at N.C. State on Wednesday and got pummeled, 104-78, by the Wolfpack.

That left Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams frustrated, to say the least.

“We were way too flat. We were playing below our man. And whether it was off the pass or the bounce, when the ball got to the paint, our rotation was bad,” Williams said of his team, which reached the Top 25 for the first time this season after its upset of the Blue Devils but will likely fall right back out if it can’t beat Florida State.

“I thought the plan (against N.C. State) was right. But the execution was obviously near to zero. I just thought the mentality relative to the execution was bad from the start, and it trended toward being too individualistic on both ends of the floor. And we’re not good enough to play that sort of game.”

Florida State, meanwhile, is that good — and it has shown flashes of greatness early in the season.

The Seminoles are enjoying their best ranking since the 1992-93 season and — while still early — currently sit tied for first place in the ACC. The 14-1 record is also their best 15-game start since the 1988-89 season and they’ve also won 10 straight games coming into Saturday following their lone loss of the year on the road against Temple during the NIT Season Tip-Off in late November.

All that, of course, adds up to one thing with five daunting opponents – vs. No. 21 Virginia Tech, vs. No. 8 Duke, at No. 14 North Carolina, vs. No. 23 Notre Dame and vs. No. 9 Louisville – looming over the next three weeks: A whole lot of pressure.

“This is a unique experience that we’re in,” Hamilton told the school’s official website. “But because of that, I think our guys are keeping it in perspective. … You just can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You’ve got to accept it for what it is and understand that in order for you to get the level of success you want to have, you’ve got to be prepared. You cannot have a bad night.”

And despite a bad night against N.C. State recently, Hamilton knows for what the Hokies are capable.

“It doesn’t really matter if they won by 100 or they lost,” he said. “If they’d have beat North Carolina State, they’d be coming in with momentum. If they’d lost to North Carolina State, they’d be coming in angry. So, either way it goes, it’s going to be a motivated team one way or another.”

Florida State is being paced by Bacon, who is averaging 17.3 points a game and has scored in double figures 23 straight times dating back to last season. The sophomore guard was also named ACC Player of the Week for the first time in his Florida State career following his heroic performance against Virginia.

Virginia Tech is led by forward Zach Leday, who is averaging 16.1 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. And the Hokies boast one of the ACC’s top long-range shooters: Ahmed Hill, who is second in the conference with 40 3-pointers made so far.

If the Seminoles can beat the Hokies, it will mark their 11th straight win – tying the school record for consecutive victories. It would also mark their first win against a ranked Virginia Tech team in almost 10 years.

And history, at least, is in Florida State’s favor: The Seminoles have defeated Virginia Tech 10 consecutive times in games played in Tallahassee Virginia Tech is 5-18 in games at Florida State and hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 1990.

But don’t let that stat fool you, Hamilton said. This is the ACC, where every team is great – and anyone can lose at any given moment.

“You have to have clear understanding that every night is a dog fight,” Hamilton said. “We want them to be in that mentality.”

Florida State leads the all-time series against the Hokies 30-22, but the Seminoles will be seeking some revenge Saturday after Virginia Tech won their last meeting 96-85 on March 9, 2016 in Blacksburg, Va.

Following Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech, the Seminoles play host to No. 8 Duke on Tuesday at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, will next host Syracuse on Tuesday after its game at Florida State.