Feb. 22, 2012
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- One game at a time.
It's cliche but it's the mantra preached by Florida State men's basketball coach Leonard Hamilton and practiced by his players. And at 11-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, winners of 10 of their last 11 and 4-0 against conference schools in the state of North Carolina, it's worked for the 15th-ranked Seminoles.
Outside of a loss at Boston College when FSU (19-7, 10-2 ACC) overlooked the league's then last-place team and the forgettable conference opener at Clemson, the 'Noles have done a good job during ACC play in seizing each moment.
And when No. 5 Duke (20-4, 7-2) rolls into town for a 7 p.m. game Thursday, the moment couldn't be any bigger.
In what is expected to be one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- crowds in FSU men's basketball history, the 'Noles and Blue Devils will compete for first place in the ACC standings and a guaranteed first-round bye in next month's ACC Tournament. To the victor also goes bragging rights (FSU would go 2-0 against Duke on the year) or revenge (the Blue Devils would pay back FSU for its buzzer-beater defeat at the hands of Michael Snaer earlier in the season).
But despite the national hype and palpable buzz on Florida State's campus, Hamilton is quick to point out that the mantra remains the same.
"In reality, it's one game," Hamilton said. "But I'm sure that from a national recognition, it would mean a lot more from a recruiting base and just exposure base to be successful against them. But right now ... we just want to finish this season.
"It would mean an awful lot to us to keep pace with the teams we compete with for the ACC title."
Even though they won at Cameron Indoor in late January, FSU needed that Snaer 3-pointer to pull of the upset. Had FSU's junior guard missed, Duke's Austin Rivers would have been the hero as his lay-up with 4.9 seconds left had given the Blue Devils a brief lead.
As one of the top players in the conference, limiting Rivers' penetration into the lane and outside shooting will be critical if FSU wants to grab its 12th league win. The task of slowing down Rivers will go to several of Florida State's guards.
"[Rivers] can do a lot of things," 'Noles sophomore Ian Miller said. "He's got the pull-up. He can get to the rim. We're just going to have to play team defense ... play hard defense and I think we can slow everybody down."
As if fans needed any more motivation to attend Thursday's game, Best Buy will be giving away a 42-inch Sharp television set to a lucky fan that arrives early. All fans that enter the Donald L. Tucker Center before 6:30 will be eligible.