With Florida State’s quest for a second ACC Tournament championship in three years set to begin on Thursday, the Seminoles enter the conference tournament on the bad side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Florida State fell at home on Sunday in its regular season finale to seventh-ranked Syracuse. The Seminoles cut a double-digit deficit down to one at the midway point of the second half, but the Orange closed the game on a 27-12 run. At 18-12, odds are that FSU is NIT-bound, but looking back on the regular season, the 2013-14 campaign could have been something special.
Though the Seminoles still have work to do to get into the field of 68, a lot did go right for Leonard Hamilton’s squad this season. Seniors Ian Miller and Okaro White each had solid years while sophomore guard Aaron Thomas is emerging as one of the ACC’s best players on both ends of the floor. Sophomore centers Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky each made improvements while Devin Bookert looks to have a firm handle of the point guard position.
The problem is that Florida State let so many winnable contests slip away and for a team on the bubble, an extra win could have made a huge difference. While FSU did notch top 50 victories over Virginia Commonwealth, Massachusetts, and Pittsburgh, bigger victories were in its grasp.
Florida State fell to Big Ten regular season champion, Michigan and SEC regular season champion, Florida by a combined three points.
Against Michigan in San Juan, FSU led by as many as 16 before falling 82-80 in overtime. While taking on the rival Gators in Gainesville, it was the failure to box out in the final seconds that led to a winning free throw in a 67-66 victory for Florida. Even after falling behind by one, Ian Miller’s halfcourt heave landed just long. Had the Seminoles been able to nab just one of those two contests, they may currently be sitting on the right side of the bubble.
On February 17th at home, Florida State raced to a 15-point lead against red-hot North Carolina. FSU led by just three at halftime, but the Seminoles were pushed around in the second half as North Carolina came away with an 81-75 victory.
Florida State also suffered four-point home losses to Clemson and Miami — both teams that Florida State had defeated as visitors earlier in the season. FSU also lost a heartbreaker at Raleigh to conclude the month of January after it had turned an eight-point second half deficit into a three-point lead with just over six minutes to play.
Overall, the 2013-14 regular season theme for Florida State was simply, “oh, so close.” Half of FSU’s 12 losses came by six points or less with three coming to schools currently ranked in the top 15.
The ACC Tournament will offer the Seminoles one last shot at redemption. For FSU to have any realistic tournament shot, it will need to still be playing come Saturday. If it isn’t, Florida State will have plenty of time to reflect on how close a fifth trip to the big dance in six years really was.