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Desmond Conner | The Hartford Courant | January 12, 2017

No. 9 Florida State breezing through tough schedule

  Dwayne Bacon (4) has been the catalyst for a deep, talented Florida State squad.

Here's one way to look at the Florida State basketball schedule: Who in their right mind wants to play six games in a row against ranked opponents? If you ask Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton, there are two ways.

"You could say, 'Well, how did this happen?' But then when you sit and think about it, this is a unique and special opportunity we are blessed to have," Hamilton told The Courant Wednesday.

The No. 9 Seminoles blew out No. 7 Duke 88-72 Tuesday night in Tallahassee for a third consecutive win over a Top 25 opponent. They beat No. 21 Virginia Tech 93-78 and No. 12 Virginia 60-58 in their previous two games.

Up next: Saturday at No. 11 North Carolina, Wednesday vs. No. 20 Notre Dame, and Jan. 21 vs. No. 14 Louisville.

Hamilton realizes this is not a normal schedule.

"This is kind of out of the box, that we've been put in this situation," Hamilton said. "But the bottom line is this: If you're a real competitor and you love what you do as a player and as a coach, you're so excited about having this opportunity to do something that very few teams in the history of college basketball have ever had an opportunity to do. For our program, even though I think the last 10 years we're one of top three or four winningest programs in the ACC, this gives us an opportunity to create a distinction on our own. It's highly motivating, even though it's challenging ... let's go see what we can do with it."

FSU is 16-1, including 12 straight wins to break a school record that stood since 1970, and 4-0 in the ACC for the first time.

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When the Seminoles face North Carolina at the Dean Smith Center, they will be seeking their first win there since 2010. FSU is led by sophomore Dwayne Bacon, who has scored in double figures in 26 straight games.

The most common theme in all of these wins, especially against the Blue Devils, is that Florida State looked and played like the dominant team — and ended those games that way. Duke's bench is light, which is widely known, but its starting five is among the best in the country. Still, it could not handle the Seminoles.

"There is no doubt we're trying to keep things grounded and in perspective," Hamilton said. "I'm trying to keep our kids with clear understanding. That was Duke [Tuesday] night and they bring a lot of hype, but the next game you play if it's not Duke or Carolina, they can hand you your hat to you, too.

"Sure, we have to concentrate on Carolina, then we've got Notre Dame, then we've got Louisville. I guarantee you whoever we play after Louisville, if you're not ready, they're going to give you your hat and show you where the door is."

After Louisville comes a game on Jan. 25 at Georgia Tech, which beat the Tar Heels on New Year's Eve.

So far this has been a special the year for Florida State. Hamilton last took FSU to the NCAA tournament in 2011-12. Yet in the past 11 years, Florida State (249 wins) is the third-winningest program in the ACC behind Duke, 330, and North Carolina, 328. Hamilton moved into 10th all-time in the ACC in wins with his 117th Tuesday night. He was Big East coach of the year twice at Miami (Fla.) (1996 and '99).

Hamilton does not worry about recognition, though.

"The most important thing is that over the last 25 years we've only had maybe six or seven kids who didn't graduate," Hamilton said. "If I'm only concerned about credit, awards and trophies and those things, I wouldn't be true to who I am and how I've gotten to this point in life.

"I mean we're taking teenagers to young adulthood and if we only judge the success by how people recognize you for the number of games you've won, then we short-change ourselves and the players who come and play for us so I really focus on [other things]. I'm happy when they invite me to their weddings. I want to meet their fiancé. I love it when I'm the godfather to their kids. Those things, to me, are far more valuable than recognition you get because you won a number of games."

This article is written by Desmond Conner from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.


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