CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Right before he left Charlotte’s Spectrum Center for the last time, after a marathon week at the ACC tournament, Leonard Hamilton flashed a grin and said:
“One thing I feel good about, we’re not on the bubble.”
That’s no small consolation, even after the disappointment of losing to Duke in the ACC tournament championship game.
The Seminoles’ run to an ACC title fell just short, but they prefer to think of everything that happened here in Charlotte as a beginning rather than an ending.
There’s a good chance that they’re right.
Owners of a 27-7 record, a fourth-place finish in the nation’s toughest basketball conference and wins over the regular-season champs from the SEC (LSU), Big Ten (Purdue) and ACC (Virginia), the Seminoles secured their place in the NCAA tournament several weeks ago.
Come Sunday afternoon, they’ll learn exactly where their road to the Final Four begins and on what seed line.
Most “bracketologists” have the Seminoles as either a No. 3 or 4 seed, and could play the first two rounds of the tournament down the road in Jacksonville.
“I think we’re fairly confident,” Hamilton said, “because we had a pretty good year. … I think we have the potential to be a challenging matchup for most people once we get in the NCAA tournament.”
That might not take the full sting out of their loss to the Blue Devils. But it sure doesn’t hurt, either.
Neither will all of the milestones that come when the Seminoles are announced during Sunday’s tournament selection show.
FSU is set to:
So there will be plenty of smiles come Sunday evening.
“Very excited,” junior guard Trent Forrest said. “I mean, we just played, respectively, the 1 and 2 (ranked) teams in the country back-to-back, and we were right there with them to the very end. …
“There’s really no reason to hold our head, because we have a good team.”
But the Seminoles also have enough tournament veterans to know that they’ll need to quickly shift their focus to what lies ahead.
FSU’s upperclassmen have been on both sides of March Madness – upset by a lower-seeded Xavier team in the second round in 2017, then reeling off their own string of upsets on the way to the Elite Eight a year ago.
A great regular season can create a more favorable tournament draw, but, beyond that, it doesn’t guarantee anything.
There aren’t any do-overs in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a fresh start. It’s a new season,” center Christ Koumadje added. “It’s one game and then you’re out. It’s win or go home. I know this team is very aware of that, and I know everybody is going to bounce back and be ready for March.”
Noles in “Bracketology”
Joe Lunardi, ESPN: No. 3 seed, West region (Hartford, Conn./Anaheim, Calif.)
Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: No. 3 seed, West region (Jacksonville, Fla./Anaheim, Calif.)
Bracketville: No. 3 seed, West region (Jacksonville, Fla./Anaheim, Calif.)
USA TODAY: No. 3 seed, West region (Jacksonville, Fla./Anaheim, Calif.)
Teamrankings.com: No. 4 seed
Fox Sports: No. 4 seed, South region