TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Despite a No. 6 national ranking that’s as high as any Florida State has earned in nearly 25 years, Leonard Hamilton is paying far more attention to the calendar than he is to the polls.
As in, it’s January 23 – which means six weeks to go in the regular season – and Hamilton’s Seminoles are about to embark on a three-game road swing after finishing a run of six straight games against ranked teams.
Never mind that the Seminoles went 5-1 during that stretch and are ranked sixth for the first time since 1993. It’s on to the next challenge.
“It’s good pub. It’s good recognition,” Hamilton said. “But in reality, you don’t play the game to have a high ranking on the 23rd of January. You’re playing because you want to have a (good) position at the end of the season. Then you can look back and say, ‘OK, this is what we’ve been able to accomplish.
“I’m happy with where we are, I’m glad that guys are making progress. But this is not the time to get a tuxedo and start taking any bows. It’s time to roll your sleeves up and really go to work.”
On the heels of a 73-68 victory over No. 12 Louisville on Saturday, the Seminoles will get back to work Wednesday, when they visit Georgia Tech (7 p.m., RSN).
The Yellow Jackets are the first unranked team the Seminoles have faced since Dec. 28 and have lost four of their past six games.
But Tech (11-8, 3-4 ACC) has been a tougher out at home, where it owns a 9-3 record and pasted North Carolina, 75-63, on Dec. 31.
That game, coupled with the fact that FSU lost at UNC by 13 points two weeks ago, helped ensure that the Yellow Jackets had FSU’s full attention in practice on Monday.
“We’re approaching this game like it’s a Louisville or Carolina or a Duke,” junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said. “We’re not taking it any other way. We know we can’t take any opponent in this league for granted. Georgia Tech beat North Carolina and North Carolina beat us.”
Wednesday will mark FSU’s first look at the revamped Yellow Jackets, who are in their first season under coach Josh Pastner.
Pastner went to Tech after eight seasons at Memphis, and Hamilton said he brings a style that’s reminiscent to Oregon and Louisville.
“It’s very challenging, defensively,” Hamilton said. “The spacing is excellent. There’s constant ball movement. There are flashes and cuts and post-ups and they have pressure releases all over the place.
“And so they have put themselves in position where they have been right there with just about everybody they play.”
Florida State hasn’t lost at Georgia Tech since Jan. 13, 2007.
After Atlanta, The Seminoles will head to Syracuse, N.Y., where they’ll look to win at the Orange’s Carrier Dome for the first time since 1997.
Then, after a brief trip home, it’s back to the road, where FSU will visit Miami on Feb. 1.
“The ‘six-game gauntlet,’ as (the media) dubbed it, I thought was a good opportunity for us to come together,” Hamilton said. “You had the sense that we all had the opportunity for us to be connected to get through this challenge. … That was a motivator. It kind of kept us focused.
“Now, playing three straight games on the road, I also think creates that same scenario where now, with the challenges of going on the road and winning, I’m sure that we’re going to use this stay connected even more. When you can go on the road and be successful, that puts you in a pretty good position at the end of the season.”