The only men’s basketball team in the ACC one could argue is playing better than Florida State right now is Virginia. The Cavaliers are once again in first place in the conference and undefeated in the league.
Their closest game? A 64-62 comeback win over Georgia Tech last Saturday in which they trailed for virtually the entire second half.
Georgia Tech then played again on Tuesday at Duke, and the Yellow Jackets once again lost a heartbreaker, falling in the final moments of a game they had a very real chance to win.
Before this two-loss skid, Georgia Tech had actually won five games in a row, including three in the ACC, since it fell to Florida State, 74-61, back on Dec. 15.
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“We think we’re a pretty good perimeter-shooting team,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said on Friday before his team left for a road trip to Atlanta. “I think we’re shooting 42.7 [percent] from 3 [In ACC games]. And we think we’re pretty good. They’re shooting 42.5. Which means they’re a good team.
“They’re not a real deep team, but man they’re playing everybody like this is the last possession they’re going to play. I mean, they are really, really giving it up. And you’re watching their body language and their eyes, and they’re so intense and playing hard, they’re running fast and quick. I’m just so impressed with the job [Josh Pastner has] done, with how those kids are playing.”
Georgia Tech has four players — Jose Alvarado, Moses Wright, Michael Devoe and Bubba Parham — averaging 32 minutes per game. Alvarado and Wright are both averaging 36. The other starter, Jordan Usher, is averaging 28 minutes per game.
All told, the Yellow Jackets have a rotation of seven players, with Khalid Moore and Kyle Sturdivant coming off the bench and averaging 22 minutes and 12.8 minutes, respectively.
Meanwhile, Florida State doesn’t have a single player averaging 30 minutes per game. The Seminoles, who have won five straight games and are now ranked No. 16 in the country, have a rotation that extends to 11 deep. There are nine players averaging at least 13 minutes per game.
So FSU should have a superior depth advantage in today’s game (4 p.m., ACC Network), even without the services of junior guard Anthony Polite, who is doubtful again with a shoulder injury.
But Georgia Tech has nearly beaten both Virginia and Duke with the same limited depth, and the Yellow Jackets are in desperate need of a marquee win if they’re going to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
The Yellow Jackets (7-5, 3-3 ACC) are also one of the oldest teams in the country. That seven-man rotation consists of four battle-tested seniors and two juniors.
Alvarado is averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 assists and 2.8 steals per game, and Wright is averaging 16.6 points and 7.1 rebounds. Devoe is averaging 13.1 points, and Usher is averaging 11.3 per game. And all four are shooting better than 38 percent from the 3-point line.
“We know what we’re up against,” Hamilton said. “I went back and watched the game again [from December] that we played here, and I think we were up like 15 points. I looked up and the score was 51-50. We had another surge and the [final] score is not an indication of how close that game was in the latter stages of the game.
“And I was saying to myself, ‘What was I thinking? Why didn’t I call a timeout to stop the bleeding?’ But, man, that game got to be scary. … We know what we’re up against. That’s a credit to what Josh is doing. He’s going to get some people. We just don’t want to be one of them.”
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