TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On December 1, 1972, a few months removed from both a Final Four appearance and a trip the national championship game, Hugh Durham’s Florida State men’s basketball team began its season ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25.
Back then, Richard Nixon was still president, Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” was the country’s top song (soon to be unseated by The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”) and The Godfather would be named best picture at the 43rd Academy Awards a few weeks later.
The Seminoles held on their No. 2 spot for two weeks before sliding to No. 7 after a two-point loss to Princeton.
And, while there have been plenty of momentous occasions in the program’s history over the last 48 years, no Florida State team had ever cracked the national top five since.
That changed on Monday.
Fresh off a startling, overtime win at Miami, in which they erased a nine-point deficit with 5:15 to play, the current Seminoles ascended to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 – officially their highest spot in the polls since 1972.
Florida State, up four spots from No. 9 last week, has won nine consecutive games and 16 of its last 17.
The Seminoles are the highest-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference (Louisville is No. 6; Duke is No. 8) and are tied with Louisville atop the ACC standings.
In his personal power rankings for NCAA.com, college hoops guru Andy Katz wrote:
“The Seminoles are not just an ACC title contender but have to be considered for a run to Atlanta.”
Meaning the Final Four, which will be played in April at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The national polls don’t always necessarily correspond with NCAA tournament seedings, but the Seminoles are building a strong resume for a favorable draw.
Both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS’ Jerry Palm project the Seminoles to earn a No. 3 seed and begin their postseason march in Tampa – by far the closest 2020 host site to Tallahassee.
That’s still off in the distance – FSU still has 13 games remaining in the regular season – and a lot can happen between now and Selection Sunday.
And FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, after the Seminoles won their fifth ACC game against Virginia last week, reminded reporters that no one makes the NCAA tournament with just five conference wins.
They’ll also need more than six, which they earned Saturday at Miami.
Still, no matter what happens for the remainder of this season, there’s no longer any way to deny what Hamilton and his staff have built over the last several seasons.
With all due respect to some of the star-studded teams in the early 1990s, this is almost certainly the greatest era of Florida State basketball since that Final Four run in 1972.
And, given the increased demands and competition in modern college basketball, there’s a case to be made that it’s indeed the best ever.
Hamilton was just 24 years old in 1972 and beginning his second season as an assistant at Austin Peay.
For anyone needing a reminder, Florida State under Hamilton …
And while the Seminoles will be back at it on the practice courts this week, those that follow and support them will have at least a few days to exhale and enjoy this latest accomplishment. FSU doesn’t play again until Saturday at 8 p.m., when it hosts Notre Dame.
By then, and throughout the rest of this season, perhaps the FSU community will be less amazed by how high they’ve climbed so far, and more amazed by how high they continue to rise.