Saturday came and went exactly how Florida State hoped it would.
Following a grueling win over Virginia Tech, the Seminoles were forced into a quick turnaround and took on North Carolina State in Raleigh. FSU entered as slight underdogs but by no means assumed that role.
The Seminoles defeated the Wolfpack 76-62 in a game that they never trailed. They maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half and led by as many as 20 points. An NC State victory would've tightened things at the top of the ACC standings, but the ‘Noles would have none of that.
For the first time in school history, FSU has defeated all four North Carolina ACC representatives. Having already pulled off upsets over Duke and the Tar Heels, Florida State also blew out Wake Forest back in January.
More importantly, however, the garnet and gold have maintained its position atop the conference standings. If the Blue Devils can knock off Boston College on Sunday, then the two schools would once again be tied for the league lead.
That would set up the biggest matchup between Duke and FSU that the ACC has seen in quite some time.
The ‘Noles and Blue Devils will battle it out Thursday in Tallahassee. If the ‘Noles are able to pull off another upset over the Blue Devils, then they would all but guarantee themselves to finish ahead of Duke when the season ends.
There would still be work to do. There are no gimmes in the ACC, as we have seen in certain games this season, but Miami, Virginia and Clemson aren't on the same level as this year's Duke squad.
"We're not at the point in developing our program where we can look past anybody," said coach Leonard Hamilton following Saturday's win. "We've got a very, very hungry, well-coached, extremely talented Duke team coming in Thursday. We need to continue taking care of business."
Another defeat of the residents of Durham would also give the ‘Noles the tiebreak should the two teams end up with identical conference records at season's end. While FSU's most difficult test should come on the road at Virginia, the Blue Devils still have another matchup with the Tar Heels.
Duke already upended Carolina earlier this month, when Austin Rivers hit a 3 at the buzzer that sent thousands of North Carolina supporters into disbelief.
The Seminoles hope that there won't be any Rivers magic when he and the rest of Coach K's squad bring their talents to the Tucker Center.
The last time the two programs met, Michael Snaer was the one who displayed the magic.
His 3-pointer as time expired ended Duke's 45-game winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium. ‘Noles fans hope that, if necessary, there's some more of Snaer's late-game heroics in store.
Still, whether Thursday's showdown lives up to the hype or not, Florida State has a golden opportunity to seize control of the ACC and give itself a chance to win a regular-season title.
At the beginning of the year, that was the goal: to control its own destiny and finish on top.
"We want to win a championship," said Snaer after Thursday's victory over the Hokies. "I can't let that slip through our fingers."
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
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