Like many, James surveyed the Seminoles’ talent and thought them capable of more. Case in point, Florida State’s Sweet 16 overtime loss to
No matter that
James’ drive was contagious as the
But after Sunday’s 85-82 title win over
"When we're playing at the top of our game, you saw what we can do today," James said. "We had a couple minutes where we weren't clicking, and that's when they made their runs. But we get a 40-minute game together, where we play the type of offense and the type of defense we're capable of, there's nobody in the country that can beat us."
Given the Seminoles' penchant for turnovers (ACC-high 16.3 per game), let's not get carried away, but they certainly have all the pieces, especially when they shoot well.
Florida State shot 49.7 percent in three ACC tournament games, 46.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The accuracy against North Carolina was 58.9, best of any Tar Heels opponent this season, and 50 percent from three. Seven Seminoles scored at least nine points.
That's what makes this Florida State edition more dangerous than last season's. The Seminoles are deeper offensively and shoot better percentages inside and outside the arc.
Combine that with Florida State's perennial – lock-down defense – and you have a legitimate Final Four contender. James and guard Michael Snaer, the ACC's best clutch shooter, made the league's five-man all-defensive team, and the Seminoles lead the conference in blocked shots and field goal percentage defense, the latter for an unprecedented fourth consecutive season.
Point guard Luke Loucks had a championship-game record 13 assists and made the decisive jumper in the semifinals against
Snaer, Loucks, Miller: How many teams boast three players who have made final-minute game-winners?
"They've been in the situation enough times where they've made the wrong decision and passed up on the shot," James said. "Every time, we tried to encourage them. 'Dude, you've got to take that shot. We've seen you do it in practice. We know what you can do.'
"They finally bought into that. They're not afraid of big shots because even they miss them … we'll clean them up, we'll get offensive rebounds, and if not, we'll go back and get a stop on defense. …
"The type of basketball we played (in the ACC tournament), with multiple guys in double figures or close to it, that's the type of basketball Coach Ham designed this team for. Whoever they want to double, whoever they want to focus on, there's someone else that can beat you or hurt you and we proved that today."
The ACC title propelled the Seminoles to a No. 3 East Regional seed, and they open play Friday in Nashville, Tenn., against 14th-seeded St. Bonaventure, surprise Atlantic-10 champion.
"I feel people finally respect Florida State as a basketball program and not overlook us," James said "Don't just give the ACC to Duke or Carolina from Day One, just assume one of them is going to win it, I think we've thrown our hat into the mix."
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP