Florida State's road to Final Four could be a familiar one

By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness Sports
March 18, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- If Florida State basketball fans are experiencing a case of deja vu, they're not crazy. There are a lot of similarities between last year's run to the Elite Eight and this year's set up for the Seminoles in March.

For starters, a trip to the Final Four might include matchups against Gonzaga and Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, respectively.

Those are the same two teams FSU faced last year at that junction; with a 75-60 win over the Bulldogs and a narrow 58-54 loss to the Wolverines.

And, to take things even further, if they get to the tournament's second weekend, FSU will play the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in the Golden State, just down the road from where FSU fell just short last year.

But in March, there are no guarantees and it's entirely possible, despite how talented the Zags and Michigan are, that either or both will repeat their run to California.

Florida State could take on a familiar face in the Florida Gators, a team FSU stomped to open the season, who enter the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after a controversial no-foul call potentially cost them a chance at an SEC title.

The Noles could go up against Buffalo, one of two 13 seeds to win their first-round game last year. The Bulls haven't lost a game since February and have won 31 contests, 12 of which have come consecutively.

Maybe it'll be Arizona State, who will have one more game under their belt than FSU after having to play in the First Four, and while tired legs could be a worry for the Sun Devils, they also could be clicking better in pressure-filled games.

Those aren't the only teams that could trip FSU up. The West Region has plenty of talented teams that could give the Noles a run for their money.

  • Murray State features guard Ja Morant, one of the best players in the country, and an offense that scores 83.3 points per game.
  • Syracuse would want to extract revenge on the Noles after falling to them 80-62 earlier this year. The Orange boast a Top 40 scoring defense (65.7 points per game) and are just three years removed from an improbable Final Four run.
  • Baylor struggled to find their stride in conference play, and come limping into the tournament having lost four straight, but they share the basketball well, have a couple of quality non-conference wins and could turn it on at any time
  • Texas Tech, who Baylor beat when the Raiders held a #8 ranking in the regular season, have the fourth-best scoring defense (59.3) in the country and have won 11 of their last 13 games.
  • Northern Kentucky is far from a house hold name, but feels like the kind of mid-major that could make a name for themselves and bust a few (hundred) brackets.

    But, before FSU worries about any of those teams, the Seminoles have to get past Vermont; a side that averages 73.9 points per contest, allows just 62.6 (13th-best mark in the country) and ended their year on a six-game winning streak, including taking down last year's tournament talker UMBC in the America East championship game.

    While history is on the Noles' side (four seeds are 108-28 all-time against 13 seeds), two 13 seeds won their first round game, both in fairly decided fashion as Buffalo took down Arizona by 21 and Marshall shocked Wichita State, 81-75.

    The last time the Seminoles dropped an NCAA Tournament game against a double-figured seed was 2009 in a 61-59 overtime loss to Wisconsin.

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