TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For all the accomplishments of the Florida State women’s basketball team under coach Sue Semrau – first-place finishes in the ACC and deep NCAA tournament runs among them – there’s still an empty space in the Seminoles’ trophy case.
Or, rather, an empty space on Semrau’s ring finger.
Florida State in recent years has emerged as one of the best and most consistent programs in the country. But FSU has yet to win an ACC tournament and officially earn a conference championship.
Semrau is ready to change that at this year’s ACC tournament, which began Wednesday in Conway, S.C. FSU, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, has a double-bye and will begin play in Friday’s quarterfinal round against either Miami or Georgia Tech.
“You can’t get a ring any other way at Florida State,” Semrau said. “You’ve got to win the ACC tournament.
“We’ve finished as regular-season champions, we’ve gone to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight – [but] nobody has a ring on their finger. It’s an ACC championship or bust.”
FSU (25-5, 13-3 ACC) has fallen to Notre Dame in two of the last three ACC tournaments, including the 2015 championship game.
And that’s likely who the Seminoles will have to get past if they’re to break through this year.
The Fighting Irish are the tournament’s No. 1 seed, ranked third in the latest AP Top 25 and are coming off a 79-61 victory over the Seminoles in South Bend on Sunday.
“You’ve got to have a great game to beat Notre Dame … and we had some big mental mistakes,” Semrau said. “It exposed us in some different ways, and the players have now taken that opportunity to try to correct some of those things. Knowing what it takes to beat those [teams] at that level, I think that’s always encouraging to have that opportunity.”
The Seminoles have actually dropped three of their past five games, but two of those – to Notre Dame and Texas – were against teams that will be high seeds in the NCAA tournament.
And the third, at Virginia, came just days after a double-overtime affair with Texas and also saw leading scorer Shakayla Thomas go down midway through with a shoulder injury.
Thomas, one of two Seminoles named to the All-ACC team this week, returned to action against Notre Dame and scored 10 points. She said she’ feeling no lingering effects from her injury, which is welcome news for FSU.
“My body feels like a hundred percent,” Thomas said. “But the way I performed in the game was just like, ‘OK, cool, I’m working my way in,’ so I didn’t really complain about it.”
“Getting her back for the ACC tournament is key for us,” said guard Leticia Romero, the team’s other All-ACC performer. “She’s our leading scorer and she’s definitely a threat that other teams have to worry about. And that gives the rest of the players an opportunity to score and to have open looks in the game.”
Romero tweaked her back at Notre Dame but neither she or Thomas is expected to be limited in the ACC tournament.
Semrau said that the two-week break before the NCAA tournament will provide plenty of time for any aches or bruises to heal.
“They can push through this time, and they’re tough kids,” Semrau said. “They love this time as well.”
FSU combined to go 3-0 against Georgia Tech and Miami, sweeping the Hurricanes in Tallahassee and Coral Gables and topping Tech in Atlanta.
If the Seminoles meet the seventh-seeded Hurricanes, they’ll have an opportunity to exact a measure of revenge against the team that upset them in last year’s ACC tournament quarterfinals.
“I think we have a lot of making up to do, considering last year we lost the first game,” Thomas said. “We’ve just got to come in here with a different mindset and go out and play. We can’t have the same mishap we had last year.”