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March 9, 2011
Not only is Florida State the last team to play in this week's ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., but they are also the last to find out who they are playing.
Florida State (21-9, 11-5 ACC), the No. 3 seed for the second straight year, plays in the final game of the quarterfinal round on Friday night in the Greensboro Coliseum against the winner of No. 6 Virginia Tech (19-10, 9-7) versus No. 11 Georgia Tech (13-17, 5-11) with tip-off scheduled for around 9:30 pm (there is an earlier game starting at 7). The Hokies and Yellow Jackets meet in the final game of Thursday's first round, which will also tip off around 9:30.
FSU guard Deividas Dulkys says he doesn't believe it matters who FSU faces, but that doesn't mean he doesn't care.
"Personally, I want to play Virginia Tech so we can get revenge," Dulkys said. "But, I don't think it makes a difference who we play. They are both good teams and we'll take whoever."
Many of Dulkys' teammates undoubtedly feel the same way.
FSU, playing in its first ACC road game, lost 71-59 at Virginia Tech on January 8th in the only meeting between the two this season.
FSU and Georgia Tech only met once as well with the Seminoles coming away with a 72-63 win in Atlanta on February 10th.
"They are both guard oriented. Virginia Tech has (power forward) Jeff Allen is a really good player, but they both have very good guards," said Dulkys when comparing the two possible opponents. "Georgia Tech presses a lot and Virginia Tech likes to use a lot of zone. That is probably the biggest difference."
Georgia Tech is firmly in the role of long shot. The Yellow Jackets ended the regular season on a two-game winning streak, but lost its previous eight ACC games.
As usual, Virginia Tech (narrowly missed out on NCAA Tournament berth the last three years) is on the NCAA Tournament bubble and desperate for wins. The Hokies, which have lost two straight following their upset of then-No. 1 Duke, likely need to beat Georgia Tech and Florida State to feel safe on Selection Sunday.
The Seminoles have sewed up an at-large NCAA Tournament bid and are looking to improve their seeding in the newly expanded field, which is going from 65 to 68 teams this year. Most projections have the 'Noles in the dreaded matchup between the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seeds, which means a virtual guarantee of facing a No. 1 seed next (no No. 1 seed has ever lost in the first round) and little chance of reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, No. 8/No. 9 seeds have combined to win just nine of 100 games against No. 1 seeds.
To avoid falling into the path of a No. 1, FSU may have to make a deep run in Greensboro, or, as strange as it sounds, a quick exit.
"I think Chris Singleton's injury is going to be held against FSU by the (NCAA) selection committee - which is frankly what they're supposed to do," Rivals.com college basketball editor Mike Huguenin said. "But, I think if the Seminoles can get to the ACC tourney final, they can get a No. 7 seed because that almost certainly would mean beating both Virginia Tech and Duke. That's two good wins. No wins in the ACC event and I think it could be a No. 10 seed."
Falling to a No. 10 wouldn't be so bad because facing a No. 2 seed is far less daunting than going up against a No. 1. Over the previous 25 seasons, No. 7/No. 10 seeds are 28-61 (31 percent) against No. 2 seeds.
But, for FSU, getting Singleton healthy may be more important than seeding. On Monday, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said it's possible Singleton, who has missed the last five games with a fractured right foot, could return for Friday night's matchup.
"I think he's made tremendous improvement in his rehab. I don't know if he'll be ready for Friday night but I don't know that he won't," Hamilton said. "He's been doing non-contact stuff and looks very promising. He has not had any setbacks. He hasn't had any pain. He feels like he's going to be close ? If he's able to play that's fine, but we are encouraged that at some point in the near future he is going to be able to rejoin the team."
Despite going 3-2 and nearly beating No. 1 seed North Carolina (lost 72-70 on a 3-pointer in final seconds) without Singleton, that's great news for FSU. To make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament they need Singleton's help. The junior is the team's leading scorer and rebounder and one of the nation's best defensive players - he was still voted third-team All-ACC and to the All-ACC defensive team despite missing almost a third of FSU's conference games.
Should Singleton play in the ACC Tournament, the selection committee will be anxious to see what kind of condition he is in since he helped build the bulk of FSU's resume.
"If Singleton is back, FSU better win its first game or risk sliding down the seedings," Huguenin said.
Should FSU win in the quarterfinals, they will likely earn a rematch with No. 2-seeded Duke, who will be a heavy favorite against the winner of No. 7 Maryland and No. 10 N.C. State. The Seminoles won their lone meeting with Duke, pulling off a 66-61 upset of the then-No. 1 ranked and undefeated Blue Devils on January 12th in Tallahassee.
But, Hamilton is more concerned with when and not who his team would play in the semifinals. The winner of the last quarterfinal game will be playing less than 16 hours later on Saturday with tip off for the second semifinal game scheduled for 3 pm.
"If you're playing the late game, you (should) have a little bit more time the next day seems to me," Hamilton said. "That does concern me a little bit. You get through at 11, you get in bed at 12:30 and come back and play at 3:30 ? That concerns me more than playing the Friday night late game."
FSU never got to Saturday night last year. After having to watch the other 11 teams play first in Greensboro, the Seminoles were upset by NC State 58-52 in the late game Friday night.
In 2009, playing as the No. 4 seed in Atlanta - and in a different time slot - FSU reached the championship game for the first and only time in school history, upsetting No. 1 ranked North Carolina along the way.
Still, the players don't believe being the last to play creates some kind of disadvantage or that playing earlier gives the other clubs an advantage.
"We didn't play how we are capable of playing against NC State last year and that's why probably why we lost," Dulkys said. "We didn't come out with energy that night. We have got to be hungry this time."
Bottom Line & Predictions
Florida State fans should be rooting for Virginia Tech on Thursday night. While Georgia Tech is an easier matchup, beating the Yellow Jackets means little. The Seminoles need at least one quality win if they hope to avoid the No. 8/No. 9 matchup in the NCAA Tournament. Beating a bubble team like Virginia Tech might be enough to warrant a No. 7 seed, which would give the 'Noles a much more realistic chance of getting past the first weekend in the Big Dance.
A win over the Hokies combined with a second win over Duke (assuming the Blue Devils get out of the first round) and the 'Noles are assured of getting at least a No. 7 and possibly even a No. 6 seed. Asking for much more is unrealistic since FSU has never won the ACC Tournament and is playing in the heart of Tobacco Road.
Should Singleton play he'll certainly be able to help, but don't expect him to be his old self immediately. Not playing for five straight games is going to create some rust.
The good news for FSU is they are 3-2 in his absence. Many of their players have raised their level of play. Much like last year, the Seminoles are a gritty team with a great defense. But, the difference is they are much deeper (with Singleton they have an 11-man rotation).
That should all translate into one win in Greensboro - keep in mind the Hokies are one of the thinnest teams in the ACC with just eight scholarship players - but it's tough to see them reaching the title game. FSU matches up well against Duke (a virtual lock to reach the semifinals), but facing Mike Krzyzewski and company in Greensboro would basically be a road game for the 'Noles - there will be more Duke fans in the Greensboro Coliseum than can fit in the smallish Cameron Indoor Stadium. Moreover, Duke tends to play its best in the ACC tourney. I expect FSU to win its quarterfinal matchup regardless of who they play or if Singleton plays, but come up short against the Blue Devils on Saturday.
FSU's ACC Tournament history
1992 (Charlotte): No. 2 seed, beat NC State in quarterfinals, lost to North Carolina in semifinals
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