On the strength of its first ACC Tournament title since joining arguably the toughest conference in basketball two decades ago, Florida State heads into the NCAAs this week as the No. 3 seed in the East region.
Coming into the league tourney, the Seminoles were probably no better than a No. 5 seed, and a quick exit may have even pushed them down to a No. 6. However, FSU beat in-state rival Miami on Friday, upset powerhouse Duke on Saturday and then shocked another Tobacco Road blue blood, North Carolina, on Sunday to cut down the nets in Atlanta.
While FSU is far from perfect and has its share of flaws, coach Leonard Hamilton and Co. do possess some of the attributes a lot of experts believe are necessary for making noise during what has come to be known as "March Madness." The 'Noles are deep, with nine different players -- six of them seniors, and experience counts in the tourney -- averaging double-digit minutes per game, so they can constantly throw fresh bodies at the opponent and withstand early foul trouble. While their guard play is a bit inconsistent and turnovers have been a problem more often than not, junior Michael Snaer has emerged as a go-to guy, can create his own shot and seems to thrive in crunch time.
And, of course, the garnet and gold still play perhaps the best defense of any of the 68 teams filling out this year's bracket.
Florida State starts its dance Friday in Nashville, Tennessee, where it will face No. 14 seed St. Bonaventure at Bridgestone Arena in Round 1 at 2:45 p.m. The Bonnies stamped their tournament ticket -- their first since 2000 -- Sunday by taking care of Xavier 67-56 in the Atlantic 10 title game.
Should the Seminoles advance, they will face the winner of Cincinnati and Texas on Sunday in Round 2. If FSU emerges victorious in Nashville, a return trip to the Sweet 16 means a flight to Boston, where FSU could face No. 2 seed Ohio State in the regional semifinal. Even if the Buckeyes get upset along the way, the 'Noles would most likely be matched up with a proven NCAA program like No. 7 seed Gonzaga or No. 10 seed West Virginia.
Another benefit of Florida State being the No. 3 seed is that it wouldn't have to face the No. 1 team in the East, a 31-2 Syracuse squad, until the regional final.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
FSU the No. 3 seed in the East region
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