ATLANTA — Florida State forward Bernard James has a simple message for those who dare to doubt his basketball team.
“You should be a believer now,” he yelled as the last specs of championship confetti floated down around him from the Philips Arena ceiling.
Guard Ian Miller wasn’t so reserved with his response.
“I guess they believe now,” he said.
“If they don’t, tough luck because we’re getting a ring for this one.”
It’s hard not to believe in this FSU team after the Seminoles knocked off top-seeded North Carolina 85-82 in the ACC tournament final. The Seminoles captured their first ACC tournament championship and became the first team since Georgia Tech in 1995-96 to beat both Duke and North Carolina twice in the same season.
The same team that lost 6 of 10 games from the end of November to the beginning of January, suffering losses by 20 and 18 points along the way, went 4-1 against Duke and North Carolina, proving that FSU’s successes were no accident.
“This is not a fluke,” Miller said. “You can’t win a championship on a fluke. Today, by winning this championship, our coaches told us it ain’t a fluke no more. People know we’re real now.”
Added James: “We silenced a lot of the doubters who say we don’t belong in the same breath as Duke and Carolina.”
Sunday, FSU stood alone, again, but only because it was above Tobacco Road’s giants.
Now, the Seminoles, turn their attention to the NCAA tournament and are looking to take their high-flying act to the top of the college basketball mountain.
“We have five or six more wins until the national championship,” Miller said. “We’re trying to get there now.”
The notion of FSU making such a run in the craziest of months is no longer laughable. This team is legit. It went from trouble to tremendous in a few months and now has tons of momentum to thrive off of.
Plus, it’s going to be hard for teams to keep up with the Noles. FSU’s up-tempo offense frustrated its victims throughout the ACC tournament. UNC, which desperately wanted to slow things down, was left zonked after its uncomfortable foot race.
With such a deep bench, FSU was able to keep its motor going and the legs churning.
“We were all coming off a third day of playing so we wanted to impose our will and try to let them know that they couldn’t outrun us,” forward Xavier Gibson said.
That sort of thing will come in handy during the Dance.
This team can shoot, too, with guards like Michael Snaer (ACC tournament MVP), Luke Loucks and Deividas Dulkys lighting it up from the floor. The Noles shot just under 60 percent against the Heels and shot no worse than 42 percent during its current five-game winning streak.
FSU is also hot from beyond on the arc after hitting 25 of 49 3s in the ACC tournament.
With as fast, physical and athletic as the Noles are, this will be a formidable group for any team to face in the coming weeks. Physically, this team is ready, but players want to make sure that once the celebration of Sunday’s win has subsided that this team is in the right frame of mind for another championship run.
“We can’t get satisfied with this,” James said.
For as sweet as Sunday’s win was, this team is still hungry.
“The ACC was just to let people know that we’re not a game, there’s no jokes no more,” Miller said. “We wanted to make a statement and today we did that.”