The ‘Noles have entered unchartered waters and are currently residing in a place that they haven't been in recent memory.
Florida State has now won six consecutive games following a 68-54 win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday night. It marks the first time in school history that the Seminoles are 6-1 in ACC play, and they are currently tied atop the conference standings with North Carolina but hold the tiebreaker as a result of their demolition of the Tar Heels last month.
Participants in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, FSU has enjoyed its successes in recent years. However, the ‘Noles haven't been a legitimate contender for an ACC regular-season championship in quite some time.
That is, until now.
The ‘Noles have won six straight ACC games for the first time in team history. Having cruised to easy victories over lesser opponents, Florida State also managed to upset Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which ended the Blue Devils' 45-game home winning streak.
That currently has the Seminoles in unfamiliar territory. This team now has a target on its back. This group will now be getting the very best from its opponents on each and every night.
"We are in a position that we have never been in before," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, "at the top of heap, and people want to get to that type of spot. We have always been the hunters, and now we feel like we are being the hunted."
FSU may feel like it's being hunted, but you wouldn't have been able to tell from its first-half performance against Georgia Tech.
The Seminoles trailed the last-place Yellow Jackets 24-23 after the first 20 minutes. Looking much like the team that was blown out at Clemson earlier in the year, the ‘Noles shot just 35 percent and turned the ball over 11 times before intermission.
Nonetheless, Florida State came out in the second half focused and poised to take control. A 10-0 Seminoles run extended the lead to double digits midway through the second and essentially ended any hopes Tech had of an upset.
Perhaps the positive to gain from this win was that FSU was able to withstand a poor early performance, maintain its composure and come out with a much different approach to assure itself a sixth straight win. The Seminoles shot better than 60 percent in the second half for the third consecutive game.
However, it wasn't just a poor first 20 minutes from the ‘Noles or a lack of execution, but rather a good performance from the Jackets. Georgia Tech may very well have saved its best basketball of the season for Florida State.
"I think they played up to us," said guard Michael Snaer. "They hit us every chance they got."
That is something that FSU can begin to expect from each opponent from here on out. Every team the ‘Noles face in the final third of their schedule will be looking to knock them off that top spot.
It's no secret that this squad had lots of talent and the potential to be one of the top clubs in the Atlantic Coast Conference. However, a struggle in the early part of the season had many wondering if picking FSU to finish third in the conference was too high.
Perhaps this group hadn't had enough experience playing together to make a real push this season.
Now, all of that talk seems to be in the distant past. Suddenly, the Seminoles have not only established themselves as real players in the ACC but are arguably among the hottest teams in the country.
Only time will tell if that will continue, but one thing is certain: Every time FSU touches the floor, it must understand it's no longer a team that can fly under the radar. Each opponent down the stretch will be certain to circle Florida State on its schedule.
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
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