Florida State University

There was a tough loss. Then injuries happened. Now Florida State is righting the ship.

Standing between Florida State assistant coaches Charlton Young and Dennis Gates, head coach Leonard Hamilton points in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Winthrop in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. Florida State won 87-76.
Standing between Florida State assistant coaches Charlton Young and Dennis Gates, head coach Leonard Hamilton points in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Winthrop in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. Florida State won 87-76. AP

Florida State’s men’s basketball team nearly got to the Final Four last season, losing to Michigan in the Elite Eight.

The Seminoles returned a bunch of the pieces that went on the tournament run last year, so they were ranked accordingly in several preseason rankings.

And by early January, FSU’s strong start led to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi slotting the Noles as a three seed in his bracketology breakdown.

But the Seminoles had two things happen since Lunardi’s bracketology projection on Jan. 4: an emotional last-second loss to Duke and an injury bug.

First, it was the powerful Blue Devils snatching an FSU win away in the final seconds in Tallahassee on Jan. 12. Cam Reddish’s wide-open three-pointer did more than just seal an 80-78 victory. It also caused a ripple effect for the Seminoles, who suffered a prolonged hangover with consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College — after that Duke defeat.

“As a coach, you don’t ever really want to accept that,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after FSU lost to Pitt. “That was an emotional loss for us, but that’s part of what you have to prepare yourself for in the ACC. There’s no doubt we were extremely disappointed, but Pitt lost a game Saturday, too. They bounced back and we didn’t.”

The three-game slide saw FSU slip to a No. 9 seed in the ESPN’s latest bracketology projections. Consequently, the Seminoles began ACC play with a 1-4 mark heading into Tuesday’s game against Clemson.

“We kind of were at this point last year,” Hamilton told the Tallahassee-Democrat. “I think we recovered. We’ve just had a lot of moving parts this year with all the things we’ve been having to deal with. I’m just trying to avoid using them as excuses. It’s just kind of part of our journey.”

That journey led to an Elite Eight appearance despite beginning conference play with a 1-3 mark last season. But Tuesday’s game against Clemson resulted in a much-needed victory to escape the ACC cellar. And now the Noles get their second matchup with Miami this month. FSU defeated UM at home already. On Sunday, the Seminoles face the Hurricanes on the road.

FSU is 1-3 on the road this season.

Part of the Seminoles losing three in a row and four of five games during January was the injuries accrued throughout the roster. Senior star Phil Cofer battled a foot injury earlier in the year only to pick up a different foot injury that sidelined him for the past two games, according to the Tallahassee-Democrat.

Trent Forrest, Terance Mann, M.J. Walker and Mfiondu Kabengele are also nursing injuries. However, Kabengele exploded for 17 points in the victory over Clemson. Forrest, Mann and Walker also played against the Tigers.

Miami is next, the beginning of FSU’s final 12 regular season games. Four of those opponents are currently ranked. Winning on the road in South Florida might be the spark needed to replicate last season’s tournament magic.

Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.


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