by Doug Kaid
Intro: Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles are coming off their second-straight third-place finish in Atlantic Coast Conference action and are making their third-straight appearance in the Big Dance. While one couldn’t describe FSU as a national power or even an ACC force, the program has improved steadily under Hamilton’s watch and could be primed for a NCAA Tournament run, health permitting, as the ‘Noles are not without injury concerns.
Record: 21-10 (11-5)
Key wins: Jan. 12, at FSU; FSU 66, Duke 61. Perhaps no one should be surprised when the ‘Noles beat Duke anymore, since it has happened so often of late. But any time a No. 1 team in the country is knocked off, it’s noteworthy. Now that’s a quality win.
Key losses: March 2, at FSU; North Carolina 72, FSU 70. The ‘Noles might still be smarting over the one. With their best player (Chris Singleton) on the sidelines, the ‘Noles nearly stunned the No. 13 Tar Heels, only to have their hopes dashed when freshman Harrison Barnes connected on a three-pointer with three seconds left in the game. Ouch. Considering, the proximity of that game to postseason and Singleton’s absence, it may have been an even bigger win than the one over Duke.
Player(s) to watch: The Seminoles don’t really have any one player that jumps at you on paper or on the court, but Singleton is the team’s lead scorer (13.8 points per game) and best defender (reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year). The junior missed the last 5 games of the regular season with foot surgery, but is expected to return for the postseason. The ‘Noles went 3-2 with him on the shelf, but his absence forced other players, particularly senior guard Derwin Kitchen, to step up, and that can only help FSU if Singleton comes back in full health.