Teams: Syracuse Orange (14-10, 7-6) vs. Florida State Seminoles (20-4, 10-3)
Date & Time: Saturday, February 15 at noon ET
Location: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee, Fla.
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has an 16.5% chance to beat FSU. Cool, Cooooool...
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 7-4, Syracuse
Current Streak: 2, ‘Noles
First Meeting: Syracuse and FSU didn’t meet on the basketball court until 1990, when the Orangemen oddly traveled down to Orlando (even weirder) in early February and beat the home team, 90-69. Billy Owens scored 23 points, while Derrick Coleman had 12 boards. It was a pretty dominant victory.
Last Meeting: Oh boy, this one wasn’t fun. Florida State ran right through the Orange early in the Dome, leading by 20 before Syracuse mounted a comeback and narrowed the score to 39-31 at half. They’d get within one by mid-way through the second half, but then the Seminoles pulled away and won the game, 80-62. Only four players scored a point for Syracuse — Tyus Battle led the way with 23, while Elijah Hughes had 17 and Oshae Brissett had 16. Buddy Boeheim also had six points.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,060-388 at SU) | Florida State - Leonard Hamilton (18th year; 373-220 at FSU)
Coach Bio: Hamilton’s been at FSU for nearly two decades, and has put in a pretty impressive job at a program that was never really known for hoops. Since he arrived, the ‘Noles have made seven (soon to be eight) NCAA Tournaments, won the ACC Tournament in 2012, made two Sweet 16s and one Elite 8. Hamilton previously coached the rival Miami Hurricanes from 1990-2000, and the NBA’s Wizards for a year. His first head coaching job was at OK State after serving as a long-time assistant at Kentucky and Austin Peay.
Last Year: Florida State went 29-8 on the year, losing to Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. After earning a 4-seed in the ACC Tournament, they managed to get past Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals and then knock off Virginia in the semis before falling to Duke in the championship game. It was the most wins in Seminoles history, beating the old mark of 27 (in 1971-72).
Last Game: The ‘Noles couldn’t get out of Cameron Indoor with a win against Duke, falling 70-65 earlier this week. They never trailed by much, though they did struggle shooting the ball. FSU was just 37.9% from the field, 16.7% from three and 60% from the line. Not ideal against anyone, but especially the Blue Devils.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: FSU’s best trait could be the variety of scorers they can throw at you, and also why they’re well positioned to beat Syracuse on Saturday. But of all the shooters on this squad, Devin Vassell potentially presents the biggest problem. He’s averaging just 13.4 points per game, but has 5.3 boards per game, hits 49.6% of his shots from the floor and 42% from three. That sounds like a player who’s going to have a career afternoon.
If Syracuse Wins: It doesn’t guarantee an NCAA Tournament berth by any stretch, but it goes a long way toward helping Syracuse get into the field. Beating a top-15 squad on the road would be the win the Orange resume currently lacks. Congratulations, you’ve been sucked right back in. Thank you, potential post-Valentine’s Day hangover for the ‘Noles.
If Syracuse Loses: Can’t necessarily say it’s surprising, but it also makes it significantly harder for SU to get into the NCAA Tournament field. There’s still at least one more chance to collect a big win (at Louisville), but you’d prefer to get it done sooner rather than later.
Fun Fact 1: Leonard Hamilton is originally from Gastonia, N.C., which is the same town as former Orange running back Moe Neal. Small world!
Fun Fact 2: Florida State has only made one other Final Four in school history, back in 1972. Though that’s a long time (48 years), it’s not the longest active drought in the ACC among teams that have been to at least one. Pitt hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1941. And Wake Forest hasn’t been since 1962.