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February 1, 2013

Hoops Preview: Duke visit means opportunity for Florida State

Saturday is about opportunity for Florida State, and not just because of the name on the opponent's jersey.

At 12-8 on the year and in desperate need of resume-building wins, Florida State has a chance to make up ground on an NCAA Tournament bid as No. 5 Duke comes to town on Saturday.

Duke, one of the ACC's traditional powers, is always one of the Seminoles' premier home games no matter the records. But this year, it is a spot that is paramount for FSU's NCAA hopes.

The game tips off at the Donald L. Tucker Center at 2 p.m. ET (ESPN).

"I think you have to look at the situation we're in," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who has taken FSU to four straight NCAA tournaments entering this season. "Yes, obviously they are a top five ranked team in the country and we have gotten off to an inconsistent start. We are in a position where every game we play in the ACC, especially those teams who are above us, is important."

At 4-3 in league play, Florida State likely needs to get to at least 10 league victories entering next month's ACC tournament to stay in contention for an at large NCAA berth. The need comes from losses to South Alabama, Mercer and Auburn before conference play began.

While Florida State has played a tough schedule to this point - it ranks No. 19 nationally - its top three wins in terms of RPI came against Brigham Young (45) and a pair of wins against Maryland (69). Including Saturday's game, FSU has four games left against teams in the top 19 in the RPI (No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Miami, two vs. No. 19 N.C. State)

"Duke is obviously one of those signature wins that if you're successful, it means an awful lot to you come Selection Sunday," Hamilton said. "But right now, it's a numbers game with us. We need to win as many games as we can, especially against the people who are considered above us right now so that we can find a way, like we always have in the past, to move our way into the upper echelon in the ACC so hopefully we'll have some postseason life at the end of the season."

FSU will have to stop a Duke (16-2, 5-2 ACC) team that is led by seniors Mason Plumlee (18.1 ppg) and Seth Curry (16 ppg), who are both expected to go in the first round of next year's NBA draft. Plumlee is coming off a 32-point performance in the Blue Devils' 75-70 win over Wake Forest on Wednesday.

"They are a really typical Duke team that's loaded with talent," Hamilton said.

FSU has won three of the last four meetings dating back to 2011, but this is the most inexperienced group for the Seminoles in the past three seasons; FSU has five first-year players playing at least 11 minutes per game.

So not only would the win give the Seminoles new life for the postseason, it could lead to a confidence boost for its youthful group moving forward.

"It will do a lot for our program because we've had such an up and down season," senior Michael Snaer said. "We need games like this to keep our postseason dreams alive. These are must win games for us at this point because we do have a young team, we've been up and down, the characteristics for a young team.

"We get this win, it does a lot for us especially for our confidence but knowing that if we beat this team, we can compete with any other team and if we bring that same energy, same focus every night these are things that we can accomplish."



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