Even with the 10-game win streak and the No. 5 national ranking, Florida State men’s basketball coach Leonard Hamilton wasn’t fooled.
He knew his team had some warts. He knew it wasn’t playing its best. So, Tuesday’s five-point loss to a desperate Virginia team on the road wasn’t a stunner for the veteran head coach. Disappointing, yes. Especially how the Seminoles played in the final two minutes.
But he also was well aware how susceptible his team was if it didn’t play well.
“I didn’t drink that Kool-Aid,” Hamilton said. “I know exactly where we are. We’ve got a lot of holes that need to be filled. We won 10 games in a row, and I was still cautiously optimistic, but realistic that we still have six new players that we’re trying to integrate into our system.”
Don’t miss out on our great Hoops coverage. Get your 30-day FREE trial
One of those players, freshman forward Patrick Williams, has missed the last two games with a toe injury. And Hamilton says Williams is still “doubtful” for Saturday’s game (4 p.m., Fox Sports Regional affiliates) in Blacksburg, Va., against a Virginia Tech team that will be as hungry as the Cavaliers were on Tuesday night.
The Hokies were a preseason pick to finish in the bottom of the ACC standings. Not only did they lose head coach Buzz Williams to Texas A&M, but virtually all of their production from last year’s Sweet 16 team either graduated or transferred.
And yet they are currently 14-7 overall and 5-5 in the ACC.
“Their style is extremely effective,” said Hamilton, whose Seminoles are 17-3 overall and 7-2 in the ACC. “And they are a much better basketball team than people thought they would be.”
They shoot a ton of 3-pointers.
Virginia Tech ranks seventh in the country in 3-pointers made this season, averaging 10.3 per game. They also rank 15th in the nation in 3-point attempts and 31st in the country in 3-point field goal percentage.
It’s an enormous part of the Hokies’ offense.
Redshirt freshman Landers Nolley is one of the leading scorers in the ACC, averaging 17.7 points per game.
“They shoot the ball really well,” sophomore forward RaiQuan Gray said. “They kind of rely on the 3-ball a lot this year. Because the coach from Wofford (Mike Young), that was his thing coming from Wofford.
“They can definitely shoot the ball. … They definitely shoot the ball really well, and we’ve got to key in on guarding the 3-point line well. So that’s our main thing.”
More than just Xs and Os, though, Hamilton knows his team must have the right mindset to deal with these types of games.
He pointed out that Florida State is used to being the hunter. Now, because of the record and the ranking, it’s the Seminoles who are the hunted.
Every time out, Florida State represents a chance — and there aren’t many in this conference this season — for ACC teams to really boost their NCAA Tournament resumes with a win.
So there is a hunger there that the Seminoles must match.
“When you have teams that are trying to play themselves into the NCAA Tournament and you’re in that lofty position, that means they can come with a lot more effort than you normally face,” Hamilton said. “And I think the adjustment we have to make is to have a full understanding that with that bull’s-eye on your back, you have to respond accordingly.
“That’s a growth process. That’s a learned mindset as well as anything else.”
This will be FSU’s fifth road contest in its last seven games. After the showdown with the Hokies, the Seminoles will play four of their next five in the Civic Center.
Discuss the game with fans on Warchant’s Seminole Hoops message board