The Daily Nole

Noles-Hokies Has Gone From Battle of ACC Sleepers to Marquee Match-up

Jeremy Esbrandt/FSU athletics

For Florida State, the gauntlet will continue this weekend with a team like FSU that has gone from ACC sleeper to ACC contender in a short period of time.

The 12th-ranked Seminoles will host No. 21 Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon in a showdown of teams who just collected their best wins of the season. Dwayne Bacon’s step-back 3-pointer in the final seconds on Saturday lifted FSU to a 60-58 victory at No. 11 Virginia. In the process, FSU became just the second ACC team in 36 tries to beat the Cavaliers in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech was taking it to Duke in Blacksburg, 89-75. The 14-point victory over a top 5 Duke team allowed the Hokies to make their 2016-17 debut in the polls. The Hokies will visit N.C. State on Wednesday night, but if they can take care of business, Saturday’s contest will be between the two ACC schools with the best overall records.

For Florida State, there may be a bit of revenge factor at play. Virginia Tech defeated FSU twice last season, rallying with a big late run in Blacksburg during a tumultuous 5-game losing streak for the Seminoles that severely hurt their NCAA Tournament chances. Virginia Tech ultimately killed the Seminoles’ NCAA Tournament hopes for good with a dominating victory in the ACC Tournament.

The rise of both programs shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Florida State has plenty of depth, talent and athleticism, but Leonard Hamilton’s team has also gotten back to playing defense — something it didn’t do much of last season.

In the third year under head coach Buzz Williams, the Hokies returned their four leading scorers from a team last season that won seven of its last nine games. Virginia Tech also has a number of guys who can beat you with five players averaging in double-figures scoring and a plethora of players who can handle the basketball.

Things can change depending on what happens in Raleigh on Wednesday night, but Saturday’s top 25 contest looks to be one that FSU needs more than Virginia Tech. While a win would give Florida State its first 3-0 ACC start ever, it’s also a home game that on the surface, looks to be winnable for an FSU team in the midst of a murderous stretch.

Virginia Tech will be the second of six straight games against current AP ranked opponents for FSU. The polls could obviously change, but no team has endured such a stretch since Maryland during the 1992-93 season. To add perspective, that was Florida State’s second season in the ACC.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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