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Men's Hoops' Gauntlet Continues With Home Date Against Hokies

Tim Linafelt | January 06, 2017

By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Ever since the Atlantic Coast Conference reached its current 15-team basketball lineup in 2014-15, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has preached the coming of a “new” ACC – one in which a number of schools could compete at a high level and perennial powerhouses North Carolina and Duke no longer had run of the league. 

Two years later, this seems to be what he had in mind.

As the season nears its midway point, the ACC boast seven teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

The No. 12 Seminoles are one of them. And they’re in the beginning stages of a stretch of six straight games against the other six.

Hey, whose idea was this, anyway?

“I’m going to pat myself on the back and say ‘I told you so,’” Hamilton said with a smile. “It’s a great league. The best league in the history of college basketball. And it’s getting better.”

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The good news is that FSU enters Saturday’s home game against No. 21 Virginia Tech (2 p.m., ACC Network) riding its biggest wave of momentum in years. The Seminoles have their highest in-season ranking since 1992-93, they’ve won 10 straight games and, at 2-0 in ACC play following last week’s win at then-No. 11 Virginia, are tied for first in the conference standings.

Get through the Hokies, and the Seminoles will then face No. 8 Duke, No. 14 North Carolina, No. 23 Notre Dame and No. 9 Louisville. 

“This is a unique experience that we’re in,” Hamilton said. “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.”

The Seminoles need to look no further than Virginia Tech to see an example of that.

The Hokies raised eyebrows and climbed into the polls by beating Duke last weekend. They then followed that performance by getting blown out by North Carolina State, 104-78, on Wednesday.

Regardless, Hamilton said he expects a challenge when the 12-2 Hokies visit on Saturday.

“It doesn’t really matter if they won by a hundred 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.”

Virginia Tech senior forward Zach Leday (16.1 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game) leads a team that has six players averaging double-digit scoring.

And the Hokies have one of the league’s best 3-point shooters in junior Ahmed Hill. Hill ranks third in the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage (44.4 percent) and is second in 3-pointers made (40).

“Virginia Tech will challenge every defensive principle that we have,” Hamilton said. “Because they shoot the ball well from the perimeter … and then they’re exceptionally quick in their attack. Anybody who gets a rebound comes on the dribble.”

That’s just fine with the Seminoles, who said earlier this week that they welcome a faster-paced game after playing the infamously plodding Virginia Cavaliers their last time out. 

FSU and Virginia Tech are back-to-back in the NCAA’s possessions-per-game rankings, with each averaging about 75.2.

“I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to what we do in transition and (getting) defensive stops and making the leap to early offense,” sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon said. “That’s what we want to do as a team.”

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