TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – After three games in five days, all of them away from home and all of them against teams either ranked or on the verge of it, the Florida State men’s basketball team is glad to be home for a change.
But they’re not expecting a warm welcome from the opposing bench.
Next up for No. 17 is a visit from the Clemson Tigers (2 p.m., ACC Network), the second of two additional conference games that are now the new normal in the wake of the ACC’s decision to play 20 league games.
The first, at Pittsburgh in the season opener last month, didn’t go to plan. The new-look Seminoles more than held their own but came up a bucket short in a 63-61 defeat.
Things have gone much better since then. FSU reeled off seven straight victories – including hard-fought wins over Tennessee and Purdue – before running out of steam at Indiana earlier this week.
And, with a few days to catch their breath behind them, the Seminoles will host the Tigers having won 53 of their last 56 games at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
“It’s good for us just to be able to slow the pace down a little bit. We had, obviously, the Tennessee game was a very hard-fought game. … They’re very good. They challenge you physically, mentally, emotionally. So does Purdue. Both of those games were like backroom brawls. I think, for a lot of our guys, for the first time being in those situations, held up pretty good.
“But I also thought going on the road, at Indiana, was a whole different level. More of an ACC road game-type of atmosphere. And maybe even more so. That might have been more of an intense crowd response to them that I’ve seen in a while. It was almost like the crowd wanted the game just as much as their players did.”
The Seminoles will look to pass that favor on to Clemson on Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers are off to a 5-3 start in coach Brad Brownell’s ninth season, have lost two straight games but also earned a close victory over Texas Christian last month.
And while Brownell has remained in place, Clemson is still navigating some turnover in both its roster and its coaching staff. The Tigers lost five of their top six scorers from a year ago, and former assistant Steve Smith is now in his first year at Florida State.
No matter, the Seminoles said that a review of the Tigers’ film suggests they’ll be as tough an out as ever. FSU is 7-3 in its last 10 meetings with Clemson. Four of those last 10 games have been decided by six points or less.
“They play a lot on the perimeter and we’re going to have to communicate a lot and talk and help each other,” FSU guard Anthony Polite said. “It’s going to be an ACC game, its going to be tough. We know they have a good coaching staff and obviously we’re going to have to prepare well and execute what the coaches want us to do.”
Beyond that, FSU is still sorting out their best lineups and rotations – a process made more difficult by a series of injuries to key contributors such as M.J. Walker and RaiQuan Gray, as well as to newcomers Dominik Olejniczak and RayQuan Evans.
The good news for FSU is that, for the first time in a while, the Seminoles seem to be healthy. The not-so-good news is that they’ll be sorting things out against a not-so-forgiving opponent.
“I’ll be anxious to see how we perform now that we’ll be home and won’t be traveling as much,” Hamilton said. “We’ll be able to focus a lot more. And we also understand a little bit more what our shortcomings are, so now we’re going to focus and see if we can improve those areas.
“It doesn’t help that we’ve got an ACC opponent to figure things out on.”