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Around the ACC: Responding to a long layoff

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How have Florida State’s conference foes fared following a lengthy COVID-19 layoff?

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Clemson vs Florida State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of the 2020-21 NCAA basketball season, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton summed things up about as well as anyone could.

“It’s a new normal,” Hamilton said.

Of course, he was referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the possible strain it could put on the flow and regularity of the college hoops schedule.

Not only have teams adjusted to entirely different routines and protocols, but a third of the ACC has already faced a lengthy stretch of postponements and cancellations on their schedule. Outbreaks have also altered practice schedules and the fluid situation has no doubt affected team’s mentally.

Unfortunately, such is the case with Florida State and Hamilton’s squad the past two weeks. Seminole basketball has not tipped off since Dec. 29 in a 77-67 loss at Clemson.

As FSU looks to be back on track to play this evening against N.C. State, what we can expect from the Noles after a 14-day stretch without a game? Let’s take a look at the six ACC teams who have already returned from an extended break, and how they responded in their first game back.

#16 Louisville Cardinals: 18 days without a game

Like many schools around the nation, Louisville had their December schedule altered due to contact tracing within the program. They were forced to sit from Dec. 1 to Dec. 19, returning to the court for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge versus Wisconsin.

In a blowout, the Badgers dominated Louisville 85-48, handing them their worst loss since 1956. Although the Cards were without their leading scorer, defense was an issue as well. Wisconsin shot 54-percent (31 of 57) from the floor.

#18 Virginia Cavaliers: 18 days without a game

The still-defending National Champions were another top ACC program to briefly halt their season. Virginia returned to comfortably win against an over-matched William and Mary squad on Dec. 22, but four days later were exposed by top-ranked Gonzaga.

Typically a strength, defensive presence and contesting shots was a major problem for the Cavaliers, who trailed by double-digits at halftime and gave up a 60-percent shooting night from the field to Gonzaga. UVA fell 98-75.

#19 Duke Blue Devils: 19 days without a game

Coach K. and Duke had a tumultuous month of December, with multiple stoppages culminating in a cancellation of the remainder of their non-conference schedule. Their longest streak without a game came after a 75-65 win over Notre Dame.

Games versus Elon, Charleston Southern, and Gardner-Webb were never played. When they returned to ACC play, Pittsburgh and of course FSU were also wiped off the schedule. They ended up only playing 2 games from Dec. 4 to Jan. 6.

Playing without their legendary head coach (out because of COVID-19 protocols), Duke trailed by double digits at the half but came back for an exciting 83-82 win over Boston College.

NC State Wolfpack: 14 days without a game

Florida State’s opponent this evening has already shown the possible ill-effects of a two-week stretch in the middle of the season without a game. N.C. State was forced to cancel contests with Connecticut and FAU, and postpone a showdown with Louisville.

In their return, the Pack led Saint Louis for the entire first 30 minutes of game-time, but ran out of gas late to fall 80-69 for their first loss of the season. Conditioning could have been a factor, as they were out-rebounded by an eye-popping 53-26 disadvantage in the loss.

Syracuse Orange: 17 days without a game

After making it through their non-conference slate unscathed, Syracuse had their first two ACC games versus Notre Dame and Wake Forest knocked out. Just like Duke and N.C. State, Syracuse gave up a large lead in their first game back against Pittsburgh.

The Orange led by 18 early in the second half and by 9 with under 4 minutes remaining, but were stunned by late-game heroics from the Panthers. A layup with 5 seconds left helped Pitt escape with a 63-60 win.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons: 33 days without a game

Suffering from perhaps one of the longest stretches without a game in the NCAA this season, Wake Forest did not see the court for over a month. After defeating Longwood 71-60 in late November, Wake did not return until a New Year’s Eve win over Catawba.

Since their win over a Division II program, the Demon Deacons have lost by 9 or more points in their last three games. In their second game back versus Georgia Tech, they gave up 18 turnovers.

Back in Tallahassee, Florida State (5-2, 1-1 ACC) certainly has their work cut out for them on Wednesday night versus N.C. State (6-3, 2-2 ACC) at 6:30 p.m. on ACC Network.

Regaining a flow offensively, maintaining a strong defensive presence, and competing at a high level for a full 40 minutes have all been areas where fellow ACC teams have struggled in their returns from a layoff.