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March 13, 2013
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton rattled off a host of youthful miscues and growing pains - from post moves to mentality to understanding of the game - that his young team worked through this season.
And in almost the same breath, he said how he's seen a lot of that go away, especially in the past week.
In a season defined by inexperience and injury leading to an underwhelming 17-13 regular season, Florida State pieced together wins against NCAA-bound UVA and N.C. State in the final two games to to show that, perhaps, this young team is growing.
"Overall, the last two games is just a manifestation of all of that kind of stuff coming together," Hamilton said. "I was just a little worried about how long it was going to take. It's here, so now we're getting a better glimpse of who we are and what we've got."
The Seminoles, who enter the ACC Tournament as the No. 6 seed, are long shots to defend last season's tournament crown. The journey starts against 11-seed Clemson at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday in Greensboro, N.C. The winner will take on a waiting 3-seed UNC bunch in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
Florida State hopes to knock off Clemson for a third time this season, something it has never done before. The Seminoles beat the Tigers 71-66 on Jan. 5 and 60-57 at home on Jan. 24 thanks to Michael Snaer's game-winning three-pointer.
Offensively, FSU has received a big boost from freshman point guard Devon Bookert, who scored 18 in the Seminoles' 71-67 win over N.C. State to end the regular season on Saturday. He has played at least 27 minutes in seven of FSU's final eight games, averaging 9.9 points per game in that stretch. Defensively, Montay Brandon has played inspired ball in FSU's last two wins; seeing more minutes in both games (20, 27) than he has since Jan. 30.
The veterans are taking notice.
"I think so - I hope so," Miller said when asked if he's seen the young players change this past week. "I hope it just wasn't just a 1, 2, 3-game thing. I hope it's here to stay. I hope this is us turning the corner right here."
And while he does have holdovers from the team that made the run in the ACC Tournament last season, Hamilton isn't counting on any value from memories. As with the need to play so many freshman during the season, Hamilton said that ineffectiveness of key veterans like Miller (foot) and Terrance Shannon (neck) don't really give the Seminoles any sort of edge going into the format.
"I'm not sure there's enough residuals," Hamilton said. "It's hard to benefit from happened last year when you lose six veterans."
So in some way, with a bit of found momentum, the new faces will hope to make their own push this week.
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