After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years a season ago, Florida State’s 2013-14 campaign began with a lot of promise. Florida State finished a sound 9-3 in the non-conference which included an 18-point win over a top 10 Virginia Commonwealth squad and a neutral court victory over previously undefeated Massachusetts.
FSU was even competitive with some of the nation’s best. The Seminoles lost to Michigan — the national runner-up from a season ago — and rival Florida, who currently is ranked third in the country, by a combined three points. After a poor showing in the ACC opener against Virginia, Florida State responded with three straight victories and a spot in the field of 68 looked like an inevitability.
Since then however, Florida State is just 2-6 including 1-5 over its last six games. The lone victory over that stretch came at home against a Virginia Tech team that has just one ACC win.
The losses on the other hand have been dismal. Florida State has home losses to Clemson and Miami — teams it beat on the road by double-figures earlier in the season. FSU was also beaten handily by a Maryland team on Saturday that it defeated by 24 points at the Donald L. Tucker Center earlier in the year.
The reasons for Florida State’s recent struggles are many, but most notable among them has been the defense. Leonard Hamilton’s teams have always been known for their suffocating defense, but of late, opposing offenses have proved to be far too efficient against the Seminoles.
In Monday’s 77-73 loss to a Miami team that entered the contest just 11-12 overall and 2-8 in ACC play, FSU allowed the visiting Hurricanes to shoot 47 percent from the floor and a solid 7-for-15 from downtown. That effort came just two days after the Seminoles allowed Maryland to shoot 52 percent and score 83 points — more than 10 over the Terrapins’ average for the season.
While Florida State has won the rebounding battle in each of its last two games, FSU is still giving up far too many second chance points. With a pair of players taller than 7-foot in Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo as well as a number of long athletic players, this should be an area where the Seminoles dominate. That however, has not been the case and in a 78-56 loss to Duke on January 25th, the Blue Devils outrebounded FSU by a 47-24 margin.
Florida State’s usually suffocating defense has also failed to turn its defense into offense. In Monday’s loss to Miami, the Hurricanes turned the ball over just seven times.
At 14-10 and just 5-7 in ACC play, what looked to be a promising year is rapidly slipping away. There is time remaining and the opportunity for key wins remain on the schedule as the Seminoles have games left against North Carolina, Pittsburgh and top-ranked Syracuse. The bad news for FSU is that the Seminoles have limped through what looked to be the favorable part of their schedule.
With guard Ian Miller back from injury and guard Aaron Thomas and forward Okaro White having solid seasons, the talent for Florida State to make one last NCAA push looks to be there. But after dropping six of eight including two games at home that were desperately needed, the team’s desire and mental makeup may not be.