From ACC tournament seeding to NCAA resume improvement, many expected the stakes to be high as Florida State ended its regular season with two ACC home games.
All of that is long gone now. But with a young team still learning to find its way, some value remains.
The Seminoles host a pair of NCAA-bound opponents starting with Virginia on Thursday night before N.C. State on Saturday. First, it serves as a barometer for the Seminoles, who lost to each opponent by double digits on the road earlier this season. There's also the idea of proving worth now in hopes that the positive vibes can roll over for the conference tournament, a possible NIT berth and into 2013-14.
"I think that's on our mind right now, just make sure we get the win just so we have momentum for next season," junior Kiel Turpin said. "We can go in knowing, hey, we're playing against teams that went to the tournament last year and we can play with them. That's probably the main thing we're looking forward to, our next season and finishing out this season on a positive note."
First up, the Cavaliers (20-8), who are 10-6 in ACC play but have lost three straight and four of its last five on the road. UVA held FSU to a season-low 36 points in a 56-36 win in Charlottesville on Jan 18.
"The most important thing for this team, it's important we go out and play well," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "You'd like to win every basketball game you have a chance to play in, but the importance of this game, you're playing against a Virginia team that is playing as well as anybody, they seem to have a well-oiled system and they're playing well together."
Florida State's bumpy road has been aided by slower-than-expected progression from its young players, but Hamilton said tha injuries to key juniors Ian Miller and Terrance Shannon - who returned Sunday after missing 10 games with a neck injury - put the Seminoles in a tight spot.
"Over the years, we've never been caught with a young team," Hamilton said. "We've tried to build our program with a junior-senior type team that allowed our freshman to come along as maturation could take its natural course. This year with Ian (Miller) and Terrance (Shannon) being (injured), it has given us a unique and special opportunity to gain experience for our younger guys a lot faster and sooner than some of the teams we've had in the past."
Florida State is only expected to lose one scholarship player into next season - senior Michael Snaer - which means FSU could return 76.8 percent of its scoring and eight players who are averaging at least 15 minutes a game. And with that, there are still some postseason implications for FSU. At 15-14 overall, a win in either of its two final games would guarantee a .500 record for the year, keeping the Seminoles eligible for the NIT field.
"The more games you play, the more success you have, the better it is for the progress of your team," Hamilton said. "We're just hoping that we can take advantage of this opportunity, be successful and hopefully it'll mean a lot to us as we move through the careers of this team."