|Florida State needs win over No. 11 Clemson|
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- No. 11 Clemson is heading to the final stretch of the regular season with a 20-4 record and a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
As for the Tigers' opponent Wednesday night, Florida State?
Well, let's just say the Seminoles had better figure things out -- and quickly.
"We just need to lock in and watch film," Florida State guard MJ Walker said after the Seminoles' third loss in four games last Saturday. "We've just got to continue to play Florida State basketball."
But lately, that brand of Florida State hoops has looked like Jekyll and Hyde -- more so Hyde.
It started with a shocking loss Jan. 31 at Wake Forest, a team that had dropped seven Atlantic Coast Conference games in a row coming into that contest. And this past Saturday, another upset defeat at Notre Dame, which also had lost seven ACC games in a row before blowing the Seminoles off the floor 84-69. Sandwiched in there was a solid win at Louisville, but one game after that Florida State blew a double-digit halftime lead at home and gave away a huge would-be win against No. 2 Virginia, losing 59-55.
Now, the Seminoles (17-8 overall, 6-7 in the ACC) have another shot to get the attention of the tournament committee.
"We know we're a very talented group and we've been struggling for a bit, but this game is a great opportunity," said Seminoles forward Mfiondu Kabengele, who was a big part of Florida State's 11-1 start to the year and Top 25 ranking at one point. "We can show the world what we can really do as a team and how talented we are."
Clemson, meanwhile, has spent the whole season doing that.
The Tigers (20-4, 9-3) enter this game on a four-game winning streak and are coming off a 72-48 beatdown of Pitt last Thursday. They have five players averaging double figures, paced by guard Marcquise Reed at 15.4 points per game.
Clemson comes into this game with a chip on its shoulder, having lost three straight games in an all-time series that the Seminoles lead 40-31. Clemson also is just 5-11 under head coach Brad Brownell against Florida State and 2-5 in games in Tallahassee.
And they also realize that winning a game on Florida State's home floor is something only two teams have done in the past three years.
"We're going to have some very challenging games this week. Florida State is always a difficult place to play," Brownell told the Greenville (S.C.) News. "They're unbelievably hard to beat down there and they've got a lot of guys who are capable scorers, with six guys averaging nine points or more, and they have tremendous size and length around the rim. We've gotten off to a great start, but we certainly have a little work left to finish."
Wednesday will mark the first meeting between the two ACC rivals in the final five games. The two teams will face off again exactly two weeks from Wednesday on Feb. 28 in the second-to-last game of the regular-season for them both.
There also is one interesting side note to this game: Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton has been denied his 500th career win twice now since reach 499 wins following the victory at Louisville on Feb. 3. He's also sitting at 299 wins in his Florida State career as well, meaning a victory Wednesday would achieve two milestones for Hamilton, who is already the winningest men's basketball coach in school history.