TALLAHASSEE, Fla – In the midst of an historic run of success, the Florida State men’s basketball team is headed south with hopes that one small piece of history won’t repeat itself.
The Seminoles boast a No. 9 national ranking, own an eye-popping 15-2 overall record and have won eight consecutive games – with the latest triumph being a satisfying victory over defending champion Virginia on Wednesday.
They also find themselves in a three-way tie atop the ACC standings.
And yet, as they spoke to reporters just a few hours before boarding their flight to Miami, where they’ll play Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., ACC Network), the Seminoles’ thoughts were centered around a four-day stretch in late-January 2017.
WATCH: FSU men take eight-game winning streak to UM
Back then, that FSU team, like this one, was in the midst of a roaring run, having won five of six games against ranked ACC opponent.
And it was rewarded in kind with a No. 6 national ranking that is still the program’s highest since 1993.
Those Seminoles headed to fledgling Georgia Tech with a prime opportunity to earn another win, keep climbing the national polls and build even more momentum toward the NCAA tournament.
Instead, they lost by 22 points. And, a few days later, they went to Syracuse and lost again.
Only one current Seminole – senior guard Trent Forrest – was around for that skid, but it’s clear that the lessons learned from it have been passed down in each passing year.
And those lessons will be in mind on Saturday, when FSU visits a Miami team that is 10-6 overall but just 2-4 against the ACC.
“As quickly as we can be all on our highs, it all can be taken away,” redshirt sophomore forward Malik Osborne said. “(Forrest) keeps telling us every day, every day, even in when we’re in practice, we can’t get complacent.
“Because we’ve worked hard for this, and we’ve also got to work hard to keep it going.”
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said that the fight to stay sharp and hungry after achieving success is, in essence, a fight against human nature.
“If you’re not conscious of it, if you don’t talk about it and speak to it and you don’t operate knowing that human nature is what it is, you get caught by surprise,” he said. “Well, we are not going to get surprised.
“There’s enough examples for us to realize the only way for where we are to be meaningful is we’ve got to stay in the moment and keep doing what we’re doing.”
The key to it, Hamilton said, is to block out peripheral noise – think national rankings and plaudits – while avoiding the temptations of selfishness or inflated egos.
“If we allow those outside noises to affect you, then you yield to what I call ‘The Basketball Demons’ that raise their ugly heads,” Hamilton said. “We just know that they’re out there. We know that they’re going to come around in the dark shadows … The disease of me, not enough playing time – all of the things that end up biting you, we talk about.
“And we understand that we haven’t accomplished enough on this journey for us to feel like we have arrived.”
They’ve also got something of a rivalry matchup to hold their focus as well. While not always as intense as FSU’s football matchups with Miami, the Seminoles’ hoops affairs with UM are often tense, tight and physical.
The Seminoles have won three consecutive and four of five over the Hurricanes, who, despite their recent dry spell have three players who average at least 14 points per game.
Guard Chris Lykes, a 5-foot-7 junior, ranks seventh on the ACC’s scoring leaderboard (15.6 points per game).