The Florida State Seminoles made the trip to Washington, DC for the ACC Tournament with the knowledge that there was work left to do if they wanted to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. Although Tuesday's win will not be enough by itself to put them in the picture, there was a lot to like and little to hate in the Seminoles' win over Boston College that saw them overcome a slow start to convincingly beat the Eagles, 88-66.
In the early portion of the game, BC looked like the team with something to play for as much as, if not more than, FSU. The Eagles opened the game 8-11 from the floor while leading by as many as three points in the early going. A portion of Boston College's success, however, must be attributed to a Florida State defense that was doing itself no favors. Many of the issues that bogged down the Seminoles earlier in the season, such as failing to close out on shooters, miscommunications which led to uncontested shots, and a lack of chemistry, reared their ugly head again in the opening minutes against BC. In fact, with 5:46 left in the first half, the game was tied at 23.
That 5:46 mark proved to be the determining factor for the Seminoles, however, as at that moment, Boston College's best player, Eli Carter, picked up his third foul. Carter, who averaged 15.8 points per game entering the ACC Tournament despite his team's 0-18 conference record, sat for the remainder of the first half and as it turned out, that was all the opportunity that FSU needed, going on a 16-7 run to end the half and never letting the Eagles within 8 points the rest of the way.
Perhaps uncoincidentally, Carter's time on the bench after acquiring his third foul seemed to light a fire under the Seminoles on defense. They stepped up their physicality and communication, giving the defensive effort that they showed in the late-season Notre Dame and Syracuse wins. By half, FSU had forced eight turnovers and by the final whistle, that number had jumped up to 16.
The seniors, Boris Bojanovsky, Montay Brandon, and Devon Bookert, all played much larger and more productive roles after struggling in their Senior Day game against Syracuse. The same three guys, who accounted for six combined points on 1-9 shooting with eight turnovers against the Orange, went for 26 combined points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and only 2 turnovers in the opening-round win over Boston College.
But the balance and effectiveness for Florida State did not stop there. Across the box score, almost all of the FSU players contributed in just about every meaningful category. All 11 Seminoles who played made at least one field goal, nine of the ten who played non-garbage time minutes wrangled at least one rebound, and seven different players registered an assist. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who had only six points on 2-8 shooting, led the way for the Seminoles in distributing the basketball as he tallied four assists. Even better for Rathan-Mayes, he did that while only committing one turnover, equating to a 4:1 turnover to assist ratio that could bring continued success to the Seminoles if he is able to keep up anything close to that pace.
There are many other notable takeaways from Florida State's dominant performance including the 45 bench points, the 9-16 three-point shooting (56.3%, the best single game percentage by FSU this season), or the 42 points in the paint. However, arguably the most important aspect of the win over BC is how well head coach Leonard Hamilton distributed the minutes amongst all contributors. Only three Seminoles played more than 25 minutes and those three, Malik Beasley, Dwayne Bacon, and Rathan-Mayes, have proven that they are able to handle that workload. No true big man went for more than 13 minutes which could prove crucial given Florida State's lack of depth in the interior and the necessary run that the Seminoles will need to go on should they desire to return to the NCAA Tournament.
That journey continues tomorrow night at 9 PM as the Seminoles look to get redemption against the 6th-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies, who used a late-game comeback to steal a win in the only game played between the teams this year.