The Daily Nole

Historical Trends: FSU’s Tourney Hopes Hinge on Strong Finish

Mike Olivella/FSU athletics

Five regular season games and something called the ACC Tournament will ultimately decide whether or not Florida State will be part of the field of 68 or as it is commonly referred to as “March Madness”.

After consecutive losses to now No. 1 Virginia and at Notre Dame, FSU finds itself with a record of 17-8 and 6-7 in ACC play. Not surprisingly, how Florida State has closed the season has traditionally decided the Seminoles’ NCAA Tournament fate.

Now in his 16th season, head coach Leonard Hamilton has led the Seminoles to the tournament on five occasions. Below is a look at the seasons during his tenure where FSU was legitimately being considered for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, how it finished the regular season and how it fared in the ACC Tournament:

Looking at the table, one could make the case that the numbers were manipulated to be self-serving. Admittedly, this isn’t a perfect science, but 2005-06 was the only season where the Seminoles closed the regular season with a winning record. The Seminoles finished 9-7 in ACC play, but lost to 12th-seeded Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament that year to land on the wrong side of the bubble.

In all cases where FSU did make the tournament, it posted as least a .700 winning percentage to close the year in the “ACC Finish” column. While there is some flexibility in the numbers, few would argue that strong finishes weren’t a theme. It should be noted that FSU won the ACC Tournament during the 2011-12 campaign to secure an automatic bid.

What Florida State has working for it is five wins over teams currently with a top 50 RPI. What could ultimately hurt the Seminoles is letting double-digit leads slip away in each of its two home losses to Louisville and Virginia. FSU also suffered a bad loss to Wake Forest on the road.

Since the ACC expanded to 18 games for the 2013-14 season, teams that finish 9-9 in conference have made the NCAA Tournament five times as opposed to two who didn’t. Interestingly enough, of the seven eligible teams to finish 10-8 since 2013-14, four have missed the dance. Syracuse was omitted from these numbers for the 2014-15 campaign, because it was ineligible for postseason after finishing 9-9 in conference.

Each of the ACC teams to finish 9-9 or better and miss the NCAA Tournament had an RPI outside the top 50. No ACC team with an RPI of 50 or better that finished 9-9 in conference since the league went to 18 games has ever missed the tournament. It should be noted that the Seminoles currently have an RPI of 45.

To get to 9-9, FSU would need to win three of its five remaining games. The Seminoles will play two with Clemson — one at home and one on the road — in addition to contests at home against Pittsburgh and Boston College and at N.C. State.

A 10-8 finish in conference would likely make Florida State a lock for the NCAA Tournament. For FSU to do that, it would need to win four of its remaining five games. Going 3-2 would give FSU a 9-9 record and should have it feeling good about its NCAA chances.

It should be noted that of the five teams to finish 9-9 and make the tournament, two participated in the First Four. Of those five, four won their first game in the ACC Tournament. The lone loser was Syracuse during the 2016 ACC Tournament and it lost to another team, Pittsburgh, to fall under the list of 9-9 teams to reach the dance.

At this point, going 3-2 the rest of the way will be a minimum requirement for Florida State to get to the NCAA Tournament. No team to finish 8-10 or worse in ACC play since expanding to 18 conference games has ever made the field of 68.

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

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