Syracuse at Florida State game preview
Game time: 2 p.m.
TV: ACC Network
When Florida State lost five of six in the middle of the ACC season, an at-large NCAA tournament bid seemed nearly out of the question.
With four wins in their last five to push into the top half of the conference, the Seminoles have set the table to complete the regular season with a substantial resume-builder: a home win Sunday against Syracuse in the schools’ first meeting as ACC opponents.
"I’m more focused on getting this win because I know I want to make it to an NCAA tournament before my two years here is up," said senior Robert Gilchrist when asked about senior day. "So that’s what I’m more focused on. If we get this win, we increase our chances of making the tournament."
The seventh-ranked Orange (26-4, 13-4) don’t need to worry about that, but they’ve been going in an entirely different direction with four losses in five games, including head-scratching home defeats to lowly Boston College and Georgia Tech.
Tuesday’s 67-62 loss to the Yellow Jackets had Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim looking at broad accomplishments rather than recent setbacks.
"I’m not happy with tonight, but I’m very happy to be 26-4," Boeheim said. "We’re well ahead of predictions. We just have to regroup. I try to look at the big picture and not snapshots. We’re in good position."
C.J. Fair matched a career high with 28 points on 12-of-25 shooting in the loss, but the rest of the team went 13 for 39. Syracuse has shot 36.9 percent in its last six games.
The Orange were without forward Jerami Grant (11.8 points, 6.7 rebounds per game), who had played limited minutes in the previous two games with lingering back problems.
"Not having him, he’s a big part of our team," Fair said. "It could have been a different game if he was there. You never know, but it’s a big blow to the team."
Boeheim said Grant will be ready for the ACC tournament, but his status against the Seminoles (18-11, 9-8) is uncertain. With or without him, Fair said it’s time to string together some wins after losing back-to-back games for the second time in two weeks.
"We’re just eager to get that win," Fair said. "Once we win a couple of consecutive games, that will get us going."
Florida State has done that and can match a season-best four-game winning streak with one more victory. Tuesday’s 74-70 win at Boston College got the Seminoles over .500 in conference play after starting 5-7.
Aaron Thomas matched a career high with 26 points, Okaro White did the same with 24 and the duo shot 18 of 26. White is averaging 21.3 points in his last three games.
After shooting 54.7 percent in their last two contests, coach Leonard Hamilton doesn’t expect scoring to come quite as easily against Syracuse.
"Their zone defense has developed a cult following with how effective they’ve been over the years," Hamilton said. "… Obviously, that’s a point of concern. But they have great offensive players as well."
The teams’ last meeting was the Seminoles’ 82-67 NIT win at Syracuse on March 12, 1997.
Florida State is 2-3 against Top 25 teams this season, though none of those games were in Tallahassee.