CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Florida State men’s basketball team on Friday beat No. 2 Virginia, 69-59, in one of the most emphatic, memorable victories in the program’s recent history.
A few hours later, the Duke Blue Devils edged out North Carolina, 74-73, in a thrilling, back-and-forth affair that lived up to the rivalry’s billing.
It made for a near-perfect ACC semifinal Friday, one that had fans here in Charlotte celebrating well past midnight.
And, for an encore, the Seminole and Blue Devils are raising the stakes.
Florida State, ranked No. 12 and in the national spotlight after taking down the Cavaliers, will meet fifth-ranked Duke in the ACC tournament championship game on Saturday night (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
The Seminoles are seeking their second league crown, the Blue Devils their 21st.
— FSU Hoops (@FSUHoops) March 16, 2019
“It’s going to be big-time,” junior guard Trent Forrest said. “Everybody’s going to be watching. All the eyes are going to be on that game. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
And one that, in all likelihood, will have the feel of a Duke home game.
The Blue Devils’ campus in Durham, N.C., is a little more than two hours away from Charlotte.
Not that the Seminoles will mind.
They handled partisan crowds against Virginia Tech and Virginia earlier this week with no trouble, and they seem to enjoy shooting in Charlotte’s Spectrum Center, anyway.
Florida State made 12 3-pointers against the Hokies, then followed that up by shooting 56.5 percent from the field against the Cavaliers – the second-highest of any UVA opponent this season and nearly 20 percentage points above the Cavs’ season average (37.4).
“Very comfortable,” Forrest said. “It doesn’t feel new to us. The coaches preached to us ‘Have confidence’ all week. Whether it goes in or out, have confidence. So that’s what we’ve been doing.”
While Duke and superstar freshman Zion Williamson will still garner most of the attention on Saturday, the Seminoles still have plenty of reasons to feel confident going into the game.
For one thing, they were all of two seconds away from beating the Blue Devils in January, until freshman Cam Reddish made a 3-pointer that allowed Duke to escape.
Beyond that, FSU has won 14 of its last 15 games, all of them against ACC opponents and four of them over ranked teams.
“Around here, we say, ‘We’re built for March,’ and I see why,” senior guard David Nichols said. “We’ve played together all season long, and we’re just hitting our stride right now.”
“We have confidence in ourselves,” senior forward Terance Mann added. “We don’t go into a game expecting to lose. Winning is kind of normal for us, because we always expect it.”
Which means that, regardless of the quick turnaround and regardless of the bright spotlight they’ll step into on Saturday night, the Seminoles aren’t planning to treat this game any differently than the ones that came before.
And maybe they’ll have an ACC championship at the end of it.
“We’re going to try to get as much rest as we can,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Try to stay focused, try to not get caught up in all the hoopla and do exactly what we’ve been doing all year long.”