Florida State Could Go All the Way in the NCAA Tournament

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DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 28: Braian Angola-Rodas #11 and Dwayne Bacon #4 of the Florida State Seminoles talk during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 28, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 75-70. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

The Florida State Seminoles laid out a benchmark on Thursday night, when they held on to defeat crowd favourites, Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Despite being favoured for the win, nerves were rattled late on when the Seminoles let a sizeable lead slip, due to a messy free throw performance and untimely fouls. However, the ‘Noles did just enough to hold on. They showed character, composure and ultimately won the game.

Florida State Could Go All the Way in NCAA Tournament

Propelled by the performance of Dwayne Bacon, as well as stars Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State did just enough to progress. It was not the fact that they won the game. It was the way in which they did it, that could see Florida State go all the way in the NCAA Tournament.

Bacon at his Best

When Dwayne Bacon chose to stay at Florida State for his sophomore year, it was a decision that many couldn’t understand. Unlike fellow guard Malik Beasley, who was drafted by the Denver Nuggets last summer, Bacon knew that he needed another year to enhance his basketball repertoire. In games like last night, it shows the year has paid off. Bacon scored 25 points for the Seminoles on their way to an 86-80 victory over FGCU. Adding nine rebounds and two steals, Bacon took control of the game from start to finish. Scoring 16 in the first half alone, Bacon was seemingly at his best last night. Despite Florida Gulf Coast living up to their much-loved ‘Dunk City’ dub, it was perhaps Bacon, who provided the highlight of the evening.

Bacon, who has consistently averaged 16.9 points this season, as well as improving his three point percentage from 28.1 to 35 percent, seems to be hitting his peak at the perfect time for the ‘Noles. His high octaine play, court vision and improved shooting could help push Florida State towards their first NCAA Tournament title in program history.

The Other Two

Despite Bacon taking all the glory in last night’s victory, the talented trio would not be complete without lottery pick bound, Jonathan Isaac and athletic guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes. When played together, the trio can help the Seminoles outperform almost any team in the country. With Bacon leading the team in scoring, Isaac has averaged almost 12 points per game, to go along with 7.6 rebounds. Perhaps the most underrated of the three however, is Rathan-Mayes. Whilst Isaac and Bacon are becoming the offensive focus, Rathan-Mayes has adapted into a true floor general for Florida State. Averaging 10.4 points per game, Rathan-Mayes also leads the team with almost five assists per game. With great floor vision and stellar defensive play, Rathan-Mayes has the composure and more important, the clarity, the lead this team on a deep tournament run.

Stepping Up

If the Florida State Seminoles have shown us anything this season, it’s that they’re not afraid of competition. Unlike previous year’s, this ‘Noles team has shown they have what it takes to battle with the ‘big boys’. Florida State outperformed top opponents this season, riding a 7-3 record against ranked teams, that included a stretch of wins against Duke, Louisville, Virginia and Notre Dame in January. In a season that included the teams third straight win over rival Florida Gators, the Seminoles also pulled off six wins against teams ranked in the Top 50. A team that has shown all the necessary attributes to beat the tournament favourites, the Seminoles could be ready to take it all this year.

Inconsistencies

The main issue that could prevent the Seminoles from a deep tournament run; Florida State have seen serious inconsistencies throughout the season. After conquering the college powerhouses in January, the ‘Noles then succumbed to back to back losses against Georgia Tech and Clemson, before subsequent losses to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, just weeks later. Though some fans may take comfort in the fact that three of their season losses were by five points or less, that could also be cause for concern. Winning March Madness after all, comes down to fine margins.

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