TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If the Florida State men’s basketball team is to reach its goals for this season, then, sooner or later, the Seminoles will likely to have to win on the road in ACC play.
Sounds simple enough, but here’s the thing: No one wins on the road in the ACC.
At least not with much regularity.
Entering Saturday’s round of games – which includes FSU’s visit to Virginia Tech (noon, ESPN2) – home teams are a combined 31-12 in league play. That’s a winning percentage of .720, which, according to David Teel of the Daily Press, isn’t far off the league-record .750 that was set in 1980.
Also per Teel, the league’s home winning percentage has been above 70 percent just once in the last 25 years – and not at all in the last 15.
Granted, there are still several weeks remaining in the regular season and that number will likely move back toward a more normal figure. But the overall point remains. Winning in the ACC is hard, winning on the road in the ACC is only a step or two below impossible.
Virginia Tech (13-5, 2-3 ACC), which is a half-game ahead of FSU (13-5, 2-4) for 11th place in the league standings, is 1-1 against ACC teams in Cassell Coliseum.
— FSU Men’s Hoops (@FSUHoops) January 19, 2018
“That’s just kind of part of the journey in the ACC,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “…There’s no magic wand. There’s no secret. We’re just going to have to play a little better than the people we’re playing against in order to win.”
Being a little better rested won’t hurt, either.
By the conclusion of their 81-75 loss at Boston College on Monday, the Seminoles had played four games in eight days.
And that includes a particularly grueling stretch in which they played a double-overtime game against Syracuse, left the following morning for Boston and played at BC the next night.
No wonder that they came out with tired legs and trailed by 16 points at halftime. The Seminoles later trimmed their deficit to as little as five, but by then it was too late.
“You’ve got to go out and play well,” Hamilton said. “And if you have a period – like we did in the first half (at BC, where we didn’t play well), you can get behind. And that’s what happened to us.”
Good thing, then, that the Seminoles have since had something of a truncated bye week. They took both Tuesday and Wednesday off then returned to practice Thursday with what they hoped was a boost of energy and a renewed focus toward what lies ahead.
After Saturday’s visit to Blacksburg, the Seminoles return home for a pair of games against Georgia Tech and Miami before hitting the road for back-to-back contests at Wake Forest and Louisville.
Which means there will be ample opportunity to get that first road win. And maybe a few more.
“I feel like the biggest thing on the road, you have to stay connected,” sophomore guard C.J. Walker said. “You have to play defense. You don’t practice where you play on the road – the shots are different, the basketball (can be different), little things like that. (Playing) defense and communicating, staying connected, is what you need to do to play on the road. Being able to fight through the crowd.”
Virginia Tech is coming off a week’s rest of its own, having not played since a 94-86 setback at Louisville on Saturday.
The Hokies use a four-guard starting lineup, and all five starters average at least 11.4 points per game. And Hamilton said VT will often go with five guards, which could present a unique challenge as the Seminoles continue to work 7-foot-4 center Christ Koumadje back into the lineup.
Koumadje missed seven games with a foot injury, and while his length is a big asset on both ends of the floor, Hamilton allowed that bringing him up to speed after a long layoff – as well as allowing his teammates to get readjusted to having him on the floor – can take time.
“We’re still in flux a little bit,” Hamilton said. “And we’ve got to get it together, because no one is going to say ‘Let’s not play quite as hard (against FSU) because Koumadje is not quite back yet.’ It doesn’t work that way.”
The Seminoles are 1-3 since Koumadje’s return, but are confident that the pendulum will swing back in the right direction soon.
“It’s kind of like re-adjusting,” Walker said. “But we know what Christ is capable of.”