TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Throughout the regular season, Florida State women’s basketball coach Sue Semrau held firm to the belief that a difficult schedule would have the Seminoles better prepared once the calendar flipped to March.
She’s about to find out just how much better.
After a 23-6 campaign that closed in dramatic fashion with a 70-67 win over No. 17 Miami, Semrau’s Seminoles are off to Greensboro, N.C., where they’re the No. 4 seed in this week’s ACC tournament.
FSU will play Miami on Friday at 11 a.m.
“We’ve played the best in the country. There’s just no doubt,” Semrau said. “We’ve played Connecticut. We opened up with a scrimmage with South Carolina. We’ve played Notre Dame. We’ve played a lot of those folks early on, and we were competitive. Now we’re a better basketball team.”
Like every team in the country, the Seminoles struggled in a loss at top-ranked UConn.
And they’ve also dropped contests to then-No. 21 Arizona State, No. 23 Syracuse and No. 2 Notre Dame.
But the experience gained in those games – particularly against UConn and Notre Dame – could prove far more valuable than a few extra marks in the win column.
The Seminoles hosted the Fighting Irish less than two weeks ago and, after falling behind by double-digits, rallied and lost by just seven.
Since then, FSU has posted back-to-back victories against NC State and Miami.
And if the Seminoles win on Friday, a rematch with Notre Dame in Saturday’s semifinal likely awaits.
“I like the way that our schedule finished up,” Semrau said. “You love to have that tough part of the conference schedule, so that you know what you’re getting ready to go into (at the tournament) with that three games in three days.”
Speaking of bright futures, one of the country’s most promising young players, Shakayla Thomas, added another accolade to her growing collection when the ACC sixth player of the year on Tuesday.
A 5-11 sophomore from Sylacauga, Ala., Thomas is the ACC’s third-leading scorer with 17.3 points per game. And she’s also near the top of FSU’s roster in field goal percentage (55.9 percent), free throw percentage (73.0), rebounds per game (5.5) and steals (35).
Those numbers, of course, are good enough to make Thomas a starter at virtually any school in the country.
But Thomas said she doesn’t mind starting the game on the bench, as it gives her a chance to survey the opponent and figure out how best to attack.
“I need to see what I’m working with,” she said, “how I’m going to do things.”
And besides, with an average of 26.0 minutes per game, Thomas is practically a starter in every measure besides the word.
“She’s so much more comfortable and confident in what it is that we need from her, how to get that done,” Semrau said. “But the other side of things is, on the defensive end, she’s so much better. She moves so much better. She understands the system.”