The FSU men’s basketball team has been inching closer and closer to the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble for weeks now. And if this uncomfortable, wait-and-see predicament was their destination, well, they’ve arrived.
At least that’s the opinion of ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who, in his latest tourney projections, has the 12 seed Seminoles as one of the last four teams receiving an at-large bid. To be exact, the ‘Noles are the second-to-last team that Lunardi sees making the big dance, with West Virginia currently serving as FSU’s only buffer between March Madness and the obscurity of the NIT.
This unenviable position means the Seminoles face the prospect of having to participate in a play-in game; Lunardi presently forecasts the ‘Noles matching up with fellow 12 seed Providence. The winner of that contest is projected to face 5 seed Saint Louis.
So how does FSU need to finish to punch its ticket to the big dance? Well, they’ve six regular-season games remaining: at Wake Forest, vs. North Carolina, at #25 Pitt, vs. Georgia Tech, at Boston College, and vs. #1 Syracuse. Here’s what they must do, what they should do, and what they would love to do, in order to make the tourney:
The Seminoles must not drop any more games to teams below them in the ACC. The Maryland loss was bad. The Miami loss was worse. They have to handle Wake, Tech, and BC. They’re still in right now, per Lunardi, at 5-7 in conference play, so a .500 finish to come in at 8-10 is, effectively, the status quo. But this is way too dicey. Lose any of these, and it’s NIT time.
Instead, what FSU should do is take care of those games, as well as knock off the Tarheels in Tallahassee next Monday night. This isn’t the dominant North Carolina squad you’re used to. At present, they’re the ACC team in the tourney just ahead of the ‘Noles, and finishing 4-2 with a win over a competitor for a bid would look good for FSU.
But let’s end on a positive note and look at what the Seminoles would love to do, in addition to taking care of the three lesser squads and the ‘Heels. Bouncing a ranked team always helps a tournament resume, but even more so late in the season, when rankings are that much more earned. A road win against a tough Panther team or a little Tucker Center magic against the top-ranked and undefeated Orange would send the ‘Noles dancing for certain.