In the season preview we warned that while FSU had perhaps its most talent laden roster of the Ham era, the number of first year players who would be forced into heavy minutes would likely lead to inconsistent play a pile of early season losses. Never have I understood the phrase "I hate to say I told you so" more than now. As the old adage goes, FSU is not as bad as they looked against UVA on Saturday and not as good as they looked while dominating BYU in November.
All of that begs the question; can FSU extend their school record and make a 5th straight NCAA Tournament appearance? In short, yes they can. But the margin for error is getting to be Clint Trickett thin.
What Does FSU Need to Feel Safe on Selection Sunday:
Outside of winning the ACC for a second consecutive year, even a best-case scenario would likely have FSU ending up on the NCAAT bubble. So, what exactly does FSU need to do to prevent their bubble from popping like it’s 2006? With six weeks still to play, this is obviously a moving target, but here’s how I would estimate the current percentages (all of the following scenarios assume winning at least 1 ACCT game because bubble teams just can’t lose their first round game):
17-14 (9-9), Proj. RPI of 72 = 1 in a million
18-13 (10-8), proj. RPI of 63 = 25%
19-12 (11-7), proj. RPI of 54 = 55%
20-11 (12-6), proj. RPI of 46 = 90%
Unfortunately, what was looking like a Charmin soft bubble just two weeks ago has started to firm up. Middling teams every where have been picking up solid wins, meaning FSU’s cutline likely jumped from 10 ACC wins to 11—unless we somehow beat Miami AND Duke—in order to realistically feel safe.
So, the question now becomes can FSU get to 11 conference wins? It’s going to be tough, but it’s not impossible. To facilitate the analysis, let’s break the games down into three sections: Gotta Have, Like to Have, and Need to Steal One.
The "Gotta Haves" are mostly home games, but also a couple road games against low level ACC teams. FSU simply MUST stop losing at home if they expect their RPI to be anywhere near at-large range come Selection Sunday. On top of that, the Noles already have three bad losses on their resume (and really a 4th if you just look at UVA’s RPI) and good wins can only make up for so many. The Gotta Have games are:
Clemson (1/24, the next game)
Wake Forest (2/26)
Winning those six games would push FSU’s ACC win total to eight. Which brings us to the "Like to Have" games. These are games that are important for three reasons:
1. They are realistically winnable if FSU brings its B+ or better game
2. Most would represent a good win to the committee
3. It’s unrealistic not to expect FSU to lay another egg somewhere along the way. Wins in this category would give a little more margin for error in the previous category.
The Like to Have games are:
@Wake Forest (2/9)
NC State (3/9, Senior Night)
As FSU has proven this year, they are consistently inconsistent, capable of beating teams better than them, but losing to teams worse. With that in mind, let’s say FSU wins two of these games, bringing their ACC win total to 10 (keeping in mind that any "gotta have" loss would mean we need another win in this category). This means we would need to win one of the "Need to Steal One" games. (Appropriate title, huh?) These games are all extremely difficult and would all represent a marquee win—something FSU’s resume desperately needs:
@NC State (2/19)
As you can see, it will not be an easy task. But we have seen Leonard Hamilton raise a seemingly dead team from the ashes before, so don’t lose faith just yet.
1/22 ACC Power Rankings:
1. Duke: 16-1, 3-1 (Same): Monster game tomorrow at Miami.
2. Miami: 13-3, 4-0 (up 1): See above.
3. NCSU: 15-4, 4-2 (down 1): Dropped roady to quickly improving Wake team.
4. UNC: 12-5, 2-2 (same): Followed up win over FSU by drubbing Maryland.
5. Maryland: 15-4, 3-3 (up 1): Beat BC to even ACC record.
6. UVA: 12-5, 2-2 (up 1): Throttled FSU at home to end two game skid.
7. FSU: 10-7, 2-2 (down 2): Crushed by UVA with a key player injured in the process.
8. Clemson: 10-7, 2-3 (same) Chance for revenge against Noles on Thursday.
9. Wake Forest: 10-8, 3-3 (same): Upset the Wolfpack tonight.
10. Virginia Tech: 11-6, 2-2 (up 1): Won two in a row over GT and Wake.
11. Boston College: 9-9, 1-4 (down 1): Lost three straight games.
12. Georgia Tech: 10-6, 0-4 (same): Winless in conference play, travel to Chapel Hill tomorrow.