Well its been 24 hours since a new tournament champion was named in the Atlantic Coast Conference and for the first time in conference history that champion hails from Tallahassee, Florida with the Florida State Seminoles knocking off regular season conference champions the North Carolina Tarheels 85-82 in Atlanta. Not bad for a football school. The work that Leonard Hamilton and his Seminoles put in this year was finally rewarded with the school’s first ever ACC Championship and only the third conference championship in school history (Charlie Ward and company in 1991 being the most recent before yesterday). This win also marked the first team to have an African-American coach heading the team has won the conference tournament. Leonard Hamilton led his squad to a 24-9 record this year and a third place regular season finish, but that didn’t satisfy him. He wanted to be #1, and on Sunday March 11, 2012 Florida State basketball accomplished just that. In the process he also won ACC Coach of the Year award as well.
This season certainly hasn’t been easy so far this Seminole team and in a way that makes it all that much more rewarding for fans of Nole hoops. With three straight losses in November to Harvard, a #4 ranked Connecticut Huskies (wow), and Michigan State many fans had already jumped off the bandwagon and expected to this to be just another disappointing year in the Leonard Hamilton era. You couldn’t go one visit to the Rivals fan site Warchant.com without seeing too many posts about fans wanting to “Fire Ham” and start over with a new head coach. Thankfully these jokers aren’t running the administration in Tallahassee. Throughout the month of December things were much of the same as the team fought battles of inconsistency, and then a turning point came the night of January 7, 2012. After a horrendous and embarrassing performance against Clemson where the Noles lost by 20 points to a team they had no business losing to there was a bit of a riff in the locker room and players and coaches voiced many of their concerns and got everything out on the table. Without that game and that loss Florida State would probably not be in the situation they are in today as the team really came together and used that as motivation.
Since that game the first week in January the Noles have only lost three basketball games. One another embarrassing game up in Chestnut Hill to the Boston College Eagles, and then back to back games against Duke and Miami in late February. In that time the Noles have gone 15-3 including beating Duke twice and North Carolina twice becoming the first team since Georgia Tech in 1995-1996 to accomplish that feat.
I would be remiss not to mention this class of Florida State seniors (and graduate students) who have become the winningest group of players in school history. The group of Deividas Dulkys, Xavier Gibson, and Luke Loucks, has been on the FSU basketball team since the 2008-2009 season and with newcomers Bernard James, Jon Kreft, and Jeff Peterson this team has the leadership and maturity to make some more noise at the end of this week and through the rest of March (and hopefully early April). Watching these players grow up in front of over the past four years has truly been a pleasure and I for one am thankful to be given that opportunity. Those Michael Snaer, Okaro White and Ian Miller guys have been huge additions as well as the rest of the players who get lesser minutes, and we’re proud to call you all Seminoles.
And as of yesterday there’s else something we proudly call you: CHAMPIONS! Good luck in the NCAA Tournament, bring another trophy back to Tallahassee!