Sommers: FSU could unseat ACC bluebloods

first_imgConfidence isn’t hard to come after the three games that Florida State guard Michael Snaer helped put together over the course of a 10-day span in January.On Jan. 14, the Seminoles beat down then-No. 3 North Carolina in Tallahassee by 33 points, 90-57, in a game that had many (including Hoops America) questioning if North Carolina had the toughness to be a championship team.Perhaps more impressively, following another home win over Maryland, FSU invaded Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Snaer stamped a logo of his own on Coach K Court by nailing a game-winning three-point buzzer beater to end Duke’s near-historic 45-game home winning streak Jan. 21. Snaer completed the 10-day odyssey when he was awarded ACC Player of the Week Jan. 23 due, in large part, to the shot coined “The Dagger at Duke” by Orlando Sentinel writer Coley Harvey.The immense amount of emotion and praise that followed this stretch – which is probably one of the most remarkable runs in Florida State men’s basketball history – made Snaer’s declaration that he was 100 percent confident the ‘Noles will win the ACC understandable. But was it credible? Buyable? Plausible?When Snaer made that bold statement Jan. 24 on ESPNU’s “The Experts,” 11 games remained on Florida State’s regular season schedule, including the upcoming rematch with Duke Feb. 23. Since that prediction, FSU has gone 4-1, which left the Seminoles in a three-way tie with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils atop the ACC with 8-2 conference records.That single loss, a 64-60 defeat at the hands of ACC bottom dweller Boston College, was the type of game that left skeptics wondering whether Florida State has the talent to back up Snaer’s proclamation or find a way to win its first ever league title since joining the ACC in 1991. After all, BC’s upset win Feb. 8 was its first win over a ranked opponent in three years.The only other conference loss for the Seminoles this season was to the Clemson Tigers, a middle-of-the-road squad. So how does head coach Leonard Hamilton – a legitimate National Coach of the Year candidate – explain those types of losses?“That’s the way it is in the ACC; if you’re not on your game, somebody else will be on theirs, and that showed up in the result,” Hamilton told the Associated Press after the loss to BC. “They were hungrier and they were motivated. … If you don’t come with that focus, everybody in the [ACC] will beat you.”Maybe what we’re witnessing is simply a lack of composure due to a lack of limelight experience. Prior to the loss to Boston College, Florida State had achieved its highest AP ranking since 1998 at No. 15.In the remaining three weeks until NCAA tournament time, Florida State will have its opportunity to prove itself and avoid the losses top-tier teams refuse to permit. And Snaer has recognized how important that is since FSU’s failed to grab sole possession of first place in the conference standings.“Starting off the game, what we did, not respecting that team – we weren’t as focused as we should have been, and that caught up with us at the end of the game,” Snaer told the Associated Press. “We get national recognition, and we didn’t handle it well.”Underestimating an opponent shouldn’t be an excuse any longer. The remainder of Florida State’s schedule consists of three home games and three road games with five of them coming against the top seven teams of the ACC. While Duke and Virginia remain the only ranked teams left on the schedule, the final stretch leading into the ACC tournament will be anything but easy for the Seminoles.The best thing for Florida State going forward is the makeup of this team. Six seniors and five juniors, who have been part of three consecutive NCAA Tournament teams under Hamilton, including Snaer (the team’s leading scorer at 13.8 points per game), make up the roster. Upperclassmen leadership should aid in the process of becoming mentally prepared to challenge Duke and North Carolina for the rights to the ACC crown. The last time any team beside Duke or North Carolina won the ACC championship outright was Wake Forest in 2003.For now, it may be best to ignore the loss to Boston College and treat it as an anomaly, as the ‘Noles have still won eight out of nine games after beginning the season 9-6. What they do the rest of the season, especially in the rematch with Duke, is more important than a road loss to BC. Will Florida State back up its leading scorer and win its first ACC title?Despite Snaer’s prediction, it was too early to call it then, and it’s still too early to call it now. Yet, for the first time in quite a while, it doesn’t appear to be an outlandish notion to consider an ACC conference champion that doesn’t sport some shade of blue.Brett is a senior majoring in journalism. Will Michael Snaer’s prediction hold true, or is he just setting himself up for disappointment? Let Brett know what you think by tweeting him at @BAsportswriter or send him an email at bsommers@badgerherald.com.last_img

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