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Florida State Improves NCAA Tourney Chances

With a week left in the regular season, Florida State’s men’s basketball team is on the cusp of returning to the greatest championship in sports and all the tradition, anticipation, and excitement that accompanies the NCAA Tournament. They’re also on the cusp of missing the Big Dance for the second-straight season and relegation to the obscurity of the NIT. It’s March, and the Seminoles remain on the tourney bubble. But what did the weekend do to their chances? Examined below are FSU’s odds with regard to how their competitors faired and what challenges remain.

To begin, the ‘Noles had to beat Georgia Tech. And they did so in a convincing, undramatic manner. In short, they played like the better team, which they are. They established a lead early, maintained it throughout, and then pulled away down the stretch. They executed offensively, something that’s not always so easy for Florida State, shooting over 52% from the floor, and better then 84% from the charity stripe, as four Seminoles  — Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas, Devon Bookert, and Okaro White — all scored 15+ points. The win returned the garnet and gold to .500 in ACC play, at 8-8, for the first time since they were 5-5 on February 5.

But how did their bubble competitors fare? According to ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest projections released Thursday, FSU was the first of four teams listed as “First Four Out.” Ahead of them, in the “Last Four In” group, are Minnesota, Tennessee, Providence, and St. John’s. The latter three all won their games this weekend; like the ‘Noles, they were expected to do so. But Minnesota dropped its tilt against Michigan, meaning the Golphers slide to 7-10 in the Big Ten with just one league contest remaining. They may have slid out of the field in dropping three games below .500 in league play. But it’s important to remember that Minnesota beat Florida State 71-61 on December 3.

As far as those chasing the ‘Noles, Lunardi says Oregon, Missouri, and Georgetown are right on their heels. The Ducks and Tigers each defeated last-place league foes over the weekend, while Georgetown dropped its battle with Marquette. So nobody really jumped FSU. They may, at present, be positioned for an opening-round NCAA Tourney play-in game.

Clemson also warrants some attention. Although they’re not really on Lunardi’s radar yet, they do sit ahead of the Seminoles in ACC play, at 9-7. Somehow, the Tigers get to play their last three games at home. After outlasting Maryland in double overtime yesterday, they host Miami and a skidding Pitt team to close out the regular season. Finishing at 11-7 could bring them into the bubble conversation.

For the ‘Noles, the prescription remains the same: just win. FSU is at BC tomorrow night, and it’s another must-win game. They finish up at home against suddenly scuffling #4 Syracuse on Sunday, with a chance to register a signature win and solidify their place in the tournament field.

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