Please take a moment, and picture August of 2017. School was still out, you were in better shape, and the long summer that featured only baseball was almost finally over, with the college football season almost ready to start. Now imagine that at the time, I would’ve told you that the FSU football team would end up playing in the Independence Bowl with a 6-6 record, while the basketball team would be in the Sweet 16.
You would’ve laughed in my face, and I wouldn’t have blamed you one bit.
I mean, how was this Florida State team going to make the Sweet 16? They were replacing two NBA Draft picks in Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon, as well as longtime starters Michael Ojo and Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Despite returning talent with guys such as Phil Cofer, Terrance Mann, and CJ Walker, a run past the first round of the NCAA Tournament would not have seemed possible before the season.
Well, folks, guess what: It’s happening.
After absolute domination over Missouri in the first round, Florida State knocked off the West’s number 1 seed Xavier in an absolutely thrilling game that came down to the wire. Despite trailing the Musketeers throughout the contest, and with only 8 minutes to go still trailing by over ten points, FSU caught fire late in the game, going on an 18-4 run. It’s the first time since 2011 that the Seminoles will be moving on to the Sweet 16.
To be completely honest, I didn’t see this happening. Throughout the entire season, the ‘Noles were inconsistent, following up great performances against top teams like North Carolina and Virginia (well, WERE top teams) with losses to conference bottom-dweller Wake Forest. They lost three of their final four games, including a blowout loss to Louisville in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Many people didn’t have the ‘Noles beating Missouri, and practically no one had them beating Xavier, including myself, a die-hard Seminole fan. Despite the athleticism and obvious talent that the team had, it was really difficult to see them making it past the second round with how inconsistent the squad had been all season. Now though, it seems that the ‘Noles are peaking at the exact right time.
So what does all this mean? First, it confirms one thing: this year, March Madness has truly gone insane. Most seasons, this type of upset would be one of the biggest stories of the tournament so far; but with the number of shocking wins (looking at you UMBC) and basketball-loving nuns, it’s not even in the top five. Xavier, a team that had been in the top three for most of the season, and had one of the best frontcourts in the country, fell to a team that just a week ago, got thoroughly dominated by Boston College.
Two, after much speculation and arguing from FSUTwitter (the best/worst group of people on social media, depending on the day) the movement to #FireHam is not going to come to fruition. Leonard Hamilton, despite all of his coaching faults, such as having worse time-management skills than Scott Drew (shout out to Austin Brown), has led Florida State to two-Sweet 16 appearances in a decade, along with six total NCAA Tournament births. While our ‘friends’ who live in a swamp might continually reach the final stages of the Big Dance, this is still a huge accomplishment for Florida State. FSU is and always will be a football school until football is banned in 50 years, and basketball will always play second fiddle. This is a place where it is really hard to consistently win basketball games, and Ham has does that ever since taking over. After leading his underdog 2011 squad to a near-Elite Eight berth, Coach Ham is now taking another overlooked team to the third round with a shot at the Elite.So please administration, don’t #FireHam. When bluebloods like North Carolina are already gone but your still here, then something is being done right.
Lastly, I don’t exactly believe in karma, but this seems to even out what ended up being a hellish fall semester for the FSU faithful. First, the football team went off the rails after an injury to the starting QB. Then, Hurricane Irma hit, and a few weeks later, a different kind of Cane hit Tallahassee and broke streaks along with Seminole hearts. The rest of the football season seemed to go terribly, and things reached fever pitch when coach Benedict Arnold Fisher left the beautiful mosquitos of North Florida for the wasteland of College Station. Combine all of that along with several tragic events on campus, and that makes for a hell of a bad fall semester. So after going through all of that, the Seminole faithful deserve this, as does the team, who won despite most of their own fans not believing in them.
So congratulations Coach Ham and Florida State. You’ve shocked me more than Gregg Marshall and have brought balance to the Seminole force, and for that we thank you.
Now go beat the hell out of Gonzaga.