After what looked like a season salvaging victory at Wake Forest on Saturday night, Florida State let an opportunity for a big victory slip away at home on Monday. The Seminoles raced to a 21-6 lead over North Carolina, but failed to get stops for most of the second half and could not come up with a timely basket when the game mattered most. The 81-75 loss to the Tar Heels could serve as a huge blow to Florida State’s NCAA Tournament hopes as FSU prepares for its final four games of the regular season.
With a record of just 15-11 and only 6-8 in ACC play, Florida State’s tournament hopes are very bleak at this point. The final stretch however, could allow for the Seminoles to notch another signature victory and bolster their NCAA case.
Florida State will have six days to prepare for a road game against Pittsburgh. After a hot start, the Panthers are just 4-5 in their last nine games, but the versatile Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna inside have the ability to give Florida State fits. Pittsburgh however, is just 1-3 in its last four home games with the only victory being a hard-fought double-overtime contest against lowly Virginia Tech.
The other opportunity for a signature victory for FSU will come in the regular season finale against top-ranked Syracuse. On what will be Senior Day in Tallahassee for Okaro White, Ian Miller and Robert Gilchrist, the match-up with the top-ranked Orange may wind up being a contest that the Seminoles absolutely have to win.
Unfortunately for FSU, playing at home has hardly been an advantage of late as Florida State has dropped three of its last four games at home including a 77-73 loss to Miami last Monday.
In between games against ACC newcomers Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be a pair of contests that Florida State absolutely has to win. FSU will kick off the month of March at home against Georgia Tech before traveling to face Boston College two days later, on March 4th. The Seminoles will need to win both of those games and knock off either Pittsburgh or Syracuse to garner serious NCAA Tournament consideration heading into the ACC Tournament.
While the Seminoles have struggled mightily of late by losing seven of 10, there have been a few bright spots. Slasher Montay Brandon scored a career-high 18 points in Monday’s loss to North Carolina and senior guard Ian Miller has played really well in his three games since returning from injury. Miller has averaged 20 points-per-game which includes a career-high 25 points in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest. Miller has also shot 53 percent from the floor since his return.
Though Florida State is reeling and the Seminoles let a huge opportunity slip away on Monday night, there is still time for FSU to make its NCAA case. Time however, is running out and Florida State will have to add a signature victory along the way to avoid being left out of the field of 68 for a second straight season. Florida State will also need to finish the regular season 3-1 to avoid its first losing season in conference in six years.