Duke at Florida State 2/23/12

February 23, 2012

7:00 ET ESPN

At some point this week, it became clear to me that tonight’s game is the basketball equivalent of the football game against Oklahoma last September: A game highly anticipated by the Seminole faithful that everyone wishes they could attend.  While the Oklahoma days in front game had a “happy times are here again” feel due to their being many such big games in the past, tonight’s game is a rarity.  While the Duke and UNC games are well attended and serve to FSU basketball what the football team serves to everyone else in the ACC, there has rarely been  little more than pride on the line.  The times that FSU have hosted a top 15 team and been on equal ground are quite few in number (gleaned from the game notes on seminoles.com) :

  • January 10,1998  – Duke 75 FSU 63 – I was reminded of this game when I reading the news that student tickets for tonight’s game were distributed in 15 minutes . Once upon a time, student tickets for the basketball games were issued at the door; they could not be procured in advance. A near disaster before the opening of doors for this game changed that.  The 13th ranked Seminoles lost to the 2nd ranked Blue Devils and I lost my voice for the better part of a week.
  • February 27, 1993  - UNC 86 FSU 76 –  UNC was #3 and FSU was #6.  Looking back on the 1992-1993 season, one notes that FSU would have finished in a tie with UNC for the regular season title had they won.  Looking over the box scores for this game and the ones preceding it, I note the absence of Charlie Ward.  I assume he was a known “injured / will not play” before the game and that took some luster off the anticipation.
  • February 16, 1989 – Louisville 78 FSU 77 – (OT) The one game in which FSU (#7) was higher ranked than their opponent (#10).  FSU did finish the 1988-1989 season as regular season champions of the Metro conference, having beaten Louisville on the road earlier in the season.  They lost to the Cardinals in the conference tournament final, however.
  • February 17, 1978 – FSU 81 Lousivlle 70 – This game between the 14th ranked Seminoles and 9th ranked Cardinals was played in Tully Gym.

A win tonight would put the Seminoles atop the ACC standings and represent their third straight victory against the Blue Devils.  Here’s hoping for some of that 1978 magic.

 

POSTSCRIPT: Alas, it was a bit more like 1998 than 1978: Duke 74 Florida State 66. Although, back then, anytime FSU got behind more than 6 points the game felt hopelessly lost; tonight the Seminoles fell behind by 13 with two minutes to go in the first half but whittled the deficit down to seven at halftime and later closed the game to three points with the ball in hand.

FSU 90 UNC 57

January 14, 2012

Just over ten years ago, then-coach Steve Robinson’s Florida State Seminoles were in the midst of a five year home losing streak to the premier basketball teams of the ACC Conference, Duke and North Carolina.  In advance of a visit by the top-ranked Blue Devils, Robinson showed his players a video containing a highlight reel of great moments in FSU basketball history. At the end of the video, the screen faded to black, with the word “BELIEVE” displayed. FSU won the game  77-76 in what ended up being Robinson’s finest moment at Florida State.

Robinson was forced to leave, but the belief that the Seminoles could hold their own against the ACC elite remained. The following year, FSU again beat Duke at home, while 2004 featured a home win against the Tar Heels. Another home defeat of #1 Duke took place in 2006.   Neither team  came to Tallahassee in 2007, but the ‘Noles beat Duke in Cameron Indoor for good measure.  Mind you, these were all teams that fared no better than the NIT quarter-finals in the post-season, none qualified for the NCAA tournament. FSU’s 2009 tourney appearance came on the heels of defeating a Ty Lawson-less UNC in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. In 2010, FSU beat UNC on the road and 2011 featured yet another defeat of a top-ranked Duke team.

Today, Steve Robinson again manned a bench in Tallahassee. Unlike 10 years ago, though, he was on the losing side.  Unlike the aforementioned games, the result was not a close one as Florida State defeated the University of North Carolina by 33 points.

At half-time, though, it did appear it was going to be another tight game. While Florida State had a 12 point lead with six minutes to go in the first half, FSU only managed one additional point during the final stretch and held what seemed to be a precarious eight point lead given that the Tar Heels are the third ranked team in the country.

However in a four minute stretch early in the second half, Florida State turned the seemingly insecure lead into an insurmountable one.  After the Tar Heels made it a 10 point game with 18:42 remaining, the Seminoles went on a run and built a 23 point lead with with 14:33 to go.  After that, the narrowest lead for the Seminoles would be 21 points.

Deividas Dulkys was the star of the game.  While the senior guard had scored only 32 points in his past nine games, he equaled the total in today’s game.  His career high came in a performance that featured 8 of10 shooting from three point range.  The most boisterous moment for FSU (or the most soul-sucking for UNC) came with just over seven minutes left in the second half. After a Dulkys assisted lay-up, Luke Loucks stole the Tar Heels’ inbound pass and then had to wait for help to arrive.  Relief came in the form of Dulkys who converted Loucks’ pass into a three pointer.

Since that victory over Duke ten years ago, visits by the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are to Florida State basketball are what Florida State football visits were to the rest of the ACC during the glory days.  In that light, today’s game was reminiscent of the FSU-UNC football game in 2001.  The game was such a rout that watching the game in Maryland, I was unable to see the finish as ABC cut away from coverage to show a more closely contested game.  Today’s basketball game was such an energizing rout that  UNC’s coach and starters departed with 14 seconds left so that they could be out of the way of the inevitable invasion of fans.

Good thing they made that announcement about not rushing the court

Credit for photo (and caption): Matthew Farrar

Number two on the short list of things that surprised me about Tallahassee when I arrived as a freshman at Florida state is the degree to which the city has a continental climate.  Being a good Navy kid, I was accustomed to the mild temperature swings of maritime climates, and ignorant of parts of Florida away from I-95. As such, the higher highs and lower lows of Tallahassee were a shock to me.  Today’s event reinforces the nature of Tallahassee’s climate compared to Jacksonville. While the high in the river city was 98, it was a bit warmer yet in the capital city:

 

RECORD EVENT REPORT

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL

327 PM EDT WED JUN 15 2011

…NEW ALL TIME RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE SET FOR TALLAHASSEE… AT 307 PM EDT…THE TALLAHASSEE REGIONAL AIRPORT RECORDED A HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 105 DEGREES. THIS TEMPERATURE BREAKS THE PREVIOUS ALL TIME HIGH TEMPERATURE RECORD FOR TALLAHASSEE…WHICH WAS 104 DEGREES SET MOST RECENTLY ON JUNE 20TH 1933. THE PERIOD OF RECORD FOR TALLAHASSEE DATES BACK TO 1892.

NEEDLESS TO SAY…THIS ALSO ESTABLISHES A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR THIS DATE…JUNE 15TH.

TEMPERATURES MAY CLIMB FURTHER THIS AFTERNOON…AND IF THE TEMPERATURE EXCEEDS THE NEW ALL TIME RECORD OF 105…THIS RECORD EVENT REPORT WILL BE UPDATED.

$$ GODSEY

With the usual caveats that an active season doesn’t necessarily mean your coastal locale will be hit by a hurricane (and vice versa) and that these predictions are research projects in progress.

Today, Florida State University’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies released the output of their model’s forecast for the hurricane season. The model, developed under the lead of Tim Larow, indicates 17 named storms and 9 hurricanes will form this season with a total Accumulated Cyclone Energy of 163 (due to limitations in the model, the number of major hurricanes is not forecast).  This is slightly above the other forecasts that I’ve tracked. 

The model’s methodology is described in the Journal of Climate article Atlantic Basin Hurricane Simulations.   Output from the model was first released in forecast form in 2009. 

Season FSU Named Storms/Hurricanes Forecast Actual FSU Accumulated Cyclone Energy Forecast Actual
         
2009 8/4 9/3/2 65 51
2010 17/10 19/11/5 156 166

The forecast for named storms,hurricanes and Accumulated Cyclone Energy was below the conensus and proved to be the most accurate.  Their storm numbers for 2010 matched the consensus and NOAA’s forecast edged it out performance-wise on that basis. However, their ACE forecast was again below consensus and proved to be the most accurate. Interestingly, the ACE forecast for this season is the highest among predictions I track.

 

In a season in which the team posted its best postseason performance since 1993, attendance for Florida State men’s basketball was even better. The 2010-2011 attendance figures released by the NCAA today show Florida State having the 6th best season-season increase in attendance in absolute terms, with an increase of nearly 2000 fans.  An average of 9327 fans attended Florida State’s home games; 139,904 total over 15 games. This total placed it 47th in the nation, only five spots behind the University of Florida, which has an arena equal in size (~12000 seats) , but a larger student body (~50,000 vs 40,000). The total tops the 1993 figure (which I presume to be the record) of 137,863, which was also a 15 game total. This is not quite an apple-apple comparison as I will explain later.

But first, I want to go back to two tweets during the NCAA title game. The tweets would have made a nice appendix to my “Florida State Men’s Basketball – Midget in conference and on campus” as they showed how relatively unattended FSU men’s basketball was compared to the other sports on campus. In 2009-2010, attendance at FSU men’s basketball games was 70th nationally. That compared unfavorably to women’s basketball (where attendance was 50th nationally), softball and women’s soccer (42nd and 16th), and football and baseball (20th and 8th, respectively).  The per game average of 7,336  put them not far ahead (eight positions, ~500/game) of Butler University, a much smaller school playing in a much smaller arena and fairly far behind Duke (17 spots, ~2,000 game), again a smaller school in a smaller arena.  Those stats show the difficulty Florida State faces in recruiting. Why go to a school where your sport is (relatively) less important than softball, when you can go somewhere basketball is far and away the biggest thing happening? The 2010-2011 attendance figures are a fairly decent improvement in this regard.

Besides the obvious boost that improved team performance provided, there were a few structural factors in the schedule that helped boost attendance. Whereas having home games against Duke and UNC, virtually guaranteed sell-outs, were givens in the 1993-2003 era, the expansion of ACC took away that guarantee. There are seasons in which neither squad comes to Tallahassee. This season, however, both teams  played in the Donald L. Tucker Center.  Also, on and off in the past 15 years or so, the game against Florida has been played on a neutral court in December. However, a recent trend has been to play the basketball game on the same weekend and at the same site as the football game. Such was the case this season, as both were in Tallahassee.   Such scheduling has always produced a sell-out as well.  Finally, there were no home games during the Christmas break as the team played in a tournament in Hawaii during the time period. The latter two advantages did not exist in 1993.

One advantage 1993, did have though, was a seating configuration  that netted roughly 1,000 more seats (the re-configuration that shrank capacity did have the advantage of bringing students closer to the court). That advantage was reflected in the higher attendance at the Duke and UNC games that year. However, the game against Florida, which was not in Tallahassee only had 9,099 fans! Why? It was played on January 2, one day after the ‘Noles played in the Orange Bowl!  The ’92-’93 schedule also had three  games during Christmas break, against Arkansas Little-Rock, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and South Florida (UMBC had a season low 5,285 fans in attendance). Had the season featured the advantages this past season possessed, its attendance would have been larger. Of course, if the arena still had 13,000 seats, this season’s attendance would have been higher still.

Despite the aforementioned improvement in seating configuration, the off-campus facility is routinely rated as one of the lowest in the Atlantic Coast Conference ( last and next to last in two recent reviews). One criticism repeated in both, though, a facility “often less than half-full”, is no longer valid. Out of fifteen games, only three had attendance below 50%. All were against non-conference teams and played on school nights.  Attendance for the 15 games follows.

Hartford 5252 (Sun Dec 5)

Stetson 5713 (Wed Dec 15)

Gardner Webb 5899 (Mon Nov 15)

Mercer 6215 (Tue Nov 23)

Clemson 7015 (Sun Dec 12)

University of North Florida 9562 (Sat Nov 12)

Wake Forest 9729 (Tue Feb 1)

University of Virginia 10266 (Sat Feb 12)

Ohio State University 10457 (Wed Nov 30)

North Carolina State 10517  (Sat Jan 15)

University of Miami 11531 (Sat Feb 26)

Boston College 11604 (Sat Jan 22)

University of Florida 12014 (Sun Nov 28)

University of North Carolina 12030 (Wed Mar 2)

Duke 12100 (Wed Jan 12)

Hat-tip to Brendan Loy, whose post boasting  that his local mid-major (for whom he blogged several games), Denver University,  also ranked in the top 10 for attendance increases, caused me to notice the improvement in FSU’s attendance.

VCU 72 FSU 71

March 26, 2011

Nearly all of my passion for sports comes from my mother.  She played competitive basketball in her teen-aged years and has maintained her love of the college-level game to this day.  From when I was eleven or so until I left for college, we competed against each other filling out NCAA brackets.

My bias was towards my first love, Georgetown (I lived in Maryland during the Patrick Ewing era and there’s are the first college basketball games I remember) and the Big East teams. My mother’s bias was towards schools from Virginia.  Any school other than UVA (remember, we’re a Virginia Tech family) was bound to be pushed a round or two further than they seemingly deserved.  It was thusly that she correctly predicted the 14 seed Old Dominion Monarchs to defeat  the black-horse favorite to win it all, Villanova,in the 1995 tournament. She was always thrilled by such occurrences (even though she didn’t have a bracket going in 2006, she was supremely excited by George Mason’s run).

My father, on the other hand, is too practical and level-headed to have anything that could be called passion for sports.  He has often issued the game-day warning “Half of the teams will lose. If you can’t deal with that don’t watch them.”

That pessimism was realized for the Seminole faithful last night as FSU’s run ended in overtime early this morning. Twice, the Seminoles fell nine points behind only to grind their way back, thereby increasing the pain of the loss. In the small scope of a game, and the larger one of the season, it is easier to sloth in mediocrity.  Pushing for greatness can hurt.

During both VCU runs, the love for Virginia teams came back briefly, with the thought “This would be totally awesome, were they not playing against FSU”.  The painful nature of the loss is such that neither love of my birth state or the passion of the mid-major fans being rewarded is of much comfort.

15 years ago, the last time Florida State won a tournament game (and also had their run ended by a mid-major), they seemed to be on the ascent.  However, their star player, Randell Jackson,  got deluded into thinking he was NBA draft material and left early (a contemporaneous account reads “A (player) whose agent probably tells him he’s Cliff Robinson.He’s not… whoever told him to come out early should be sued.”) only to go un-drafted.  The damage went beyond him, as the 7’2″ giant Karim Shabazz, who had Jackson as a best friend, decided to go home to Providence after being left by his buddy.  The departures broke the team and while coach Steve Robinson managed to build them back enough to upset #1 Duke in 2002, they never returned to what they were at the beginning of his watch.

This time appears to be different. Coach Leonard Hamilton (under contract until 2014) has built success dependent more on a team effort than particular individuals.  A departure of Chris Singleton shouldn’t be as back-breaking as Jackson’s was (and hopefully, no one would get home-sick from his absence). After all, they nearly upset UNC while he was injured, and got to the Sweet 16 with only modest amounts of playing time for him in the tournament. The team’s greatest days still lie ahead.

 

 

 

Tonight’s game against Virginia Commonwealth University marks the Florida State’s mens basketball team’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 1993.  While that’s a (relatively) long time ago in a number of ways, one way of looking at it that particularly struck me was the realization that Virginia Commonwealth (a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference) belonged to the long  defunct Metro Conference *.

The post-season highlights for FSU hoops between now and then are slight. Appeared in the 1997 championship and lost to a Michigan team that later forfeited their season.  Won 1st round game in 1998 NCAA tournament.  Lost first round games in 2009 and 2010 tournaments.

Those highlights are small in comparision accomplishments of the other teams in the ACC.  This is where the pain of being a football school in a conference where basketball is king is apparent. (I went to high school at the northern edge of the heart of ACC country and had many classmates skip school for the 1st round of the conference tournament. That doesn’t happen in Florida).   From 1993 to this year, ACC teams made a total of 37 appearances in the Sweet 16, with every member of the conference except for Florida State and Virginia Tech doing so (Miami went back when it was a Big East member).  Five of those appearances resulted in national championships.  FSU basketball was a runt among big dogs.

Besides being overlooked and out-achieved in conference, the basketball team has been the unloved under-performer relative to other sports at FSU.

1993, of course marked the football team’s first national championship.  That fell in the middle of the 14 year run of consecutive top five finishes.  Between now and then made four national championship games, winning one.  While the glory years are somewhat past, FSU football has continued its streak of bowl game appearances (an accomplishment that’s been increasingly devalued since 1993) and it is what the average person thinks of when Seminole sports are on their mind.

Baseball is the gold standard when it comes to the post-season. FSU has been in the tournament every year since 1978.  Since 1993, they have been to seven College World Series (final eight) and appeared played in one national championship game. Only three times have they failed to advance from the opening round. 

The ladies have had their share of post-season success as well.

The women’s basketball team has been in the tournament seven times since 1993, winning their first round game every time. An upset against Stanford on the road in 2007 took them to the Sweet 16. In 2010 the team advanced to the Elite Eight.

Women’s soccer didn’t even exist at FSU in 1993. The team first played in 1995. They have made the tournment every year since 2000 and had a stretch of six consecutive appearences in the Elite Eight including one national championship game.

It is from this position of being a midget among giants both in conference and on campus that the FSU men march from to face VCU.  Fight, fight, fight to victory.

*FSU was a member of the Metro Conference, but was one of three schools that left in 1991. Virginia Commonwealth was one of the schools that replaced them.

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