Preview: FSU hoping to make statement against No. 2 Virginia
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: 7 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Before Atlantic Coast Conference play started, Florida State was 11-1, ranked in the Top 25 and seemed like a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid this year.
But after a 6-5 start in ACC play, a slip from the Top 25 and inconsistent performances, the Seminoles (17-6 overall) now find themselves being a bubble team as the end of the regular season draws near.
There’s still, however, time to stamp their resume with a signature win. And that chance comes Wednesday night.
Enter No. 2 Virginia.
The Cavaliers (22-1, 11-0) sit alone atop the ACC standings, a full three games ahead of second place No. 16 Clemson (19-4, 8-3). Virginia also enters Wednesday’s game at Florida State on a 14-game winning streak, but the Cavs also know that the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee is as hard a place as any in the ACC to win.
The Seminoles are 10-1 this year in Tallahassee, where Florida State has won 32 of its last 33 games.
“Good guard play and then they’re very athletic and they play very aggressive and hard defensively,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said during his weekly teleconference Monday. “On the road and at home, they just have the length and they’ve always been, under (head coach Leonard Hamilton) they’re very good at getting in passing lanes, and forcing action, and again, taking care of the ball.”
Florida State is coming off a big win this past Saturday that boosted its NCAA Tournament resume when the Seminoles avenged an earlier loss to Louisville — the team that snapped their 29-game home win streak back on Jan. 11. But the Seminoles beat the Cardinals 80-76 on Saturday to move up to sixth in the ACC standings.
Hamilton knows that a win on the road against Louisville was no easy task. And playing the second-ranked Cavs at home will be even harder.
“I really respect what they’ve done. Tony has done a great job and that’s why they’re playing at such level. They’ve just destroyed everybody they’ve played,” Hamilton said. “At some point in time, you just wonder, why can’t anyone seem to get a good shot? It’s because they take what they intend to take away from you. They’re good, they’re efficient, and they should be congratulated for it.”
Florida State has three players averaging double figures, led by guard Terance Mann. Mann averages a team-best 15.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a game, followed by fellow guard Braian Angola (14.1 ppg) and forward Phil Cofer (13.4 ppg).
Virginia is led by guard Kyle Guy, who — like Mann — is also averaging 15.5 points a game. Cavs guard Devon Hall is second on the team with an average of 12.1 points per game, while forward Isaiah Wilkins leads the team with 6.7 rebounds a game on average.
After Virginia, the Seminoles have six regular-season ACC games left — three away, three at home. The final slate of conference games begins Saturday at Notre Dame and ends March 3 at home against Boston College.
As for the Cavaliers, their final regular-season stretch also features six more games, beginning Saturday at home against Virginia Tech and wrapping up March 3 at home against Notre Dame.