Florida State University is accustomed to finding its name at the top of the polls. The Seminoles once again find themselves on that list, ranked #5 in the AP poll and #6 in the Coaches’ Poll. But many fans may need to take a second glance, the Seminoles are finding success not on the football field, but instead on the basketball court. This is only the second ever time Florida State Men’s Basketball has cracked the top five in basketball. The only other previous occurrence was in 1972, almost 47 years ago.
A Historic Program’s Fall
Historically FSU has been a football school. So accustomed to the top 5, FSU once finished in the top 5 of both polls for 14 straight years from 1987 to 2000. Ask any fan about the program and they respond with legends of Bobby Bowden, Chief Osceola and Renegade, The famous War Chant, or “The Puntrooskie.” They’ll tell you of the football program that saw the likes of Deion Sanders, Warrick Dunn, Charlie Ward, Peter Warrick, or recent NFL studs like Jameis Winston, Dalvin Cook, Jalen Ramsey and Derwin James.
But in the past few years, FSU football has drastically underachieved; finishing with a losing record in the last two seasons, snapping a college football leading streak of 36 consecutive bowl games. FSU hopes the football program can rebound after hitting rock bottom with the mid-season firing of coach Willie Taggart, whose tenure left fans dreaming of what could have been. Now the mantle has been passed to up-and-coming coach Mike Norvell. Hype and expectations are already beginning to grow. Fortunately for the Seminoles, they have a distraction for the time being.
The Rise of Leonard Hamilton
Where one program has fallen, another has risen to take its place. With the retirement of legendary coach Bobby Bowden, it appears FSU may have found itself with another coaching titan. For someone who once considered quitting coaching, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton has quietly built up an impressive resume. His record of wins places him among other ACC coaching greats like Duke’s Coach K, or UNC’s Dean Smith and Roy Williams, or Maryland’s Gary Williams.
Recently, Hamilton is leading FSU to new heights on the court, reaching the elite eight in 2018 and the sweet sixteen this past year. This year, Leonard Hamilton has led the Seminoles to an impressive 16-2 start, including a 6-1 record in the ACC. This is a remarkable feat by coach Hamilton, who had to replace six departing seniors. Their current winning streak includes impressive wins over Louisville at Louisville, a win against reigning national champion Virginia, and a recent come from behind win over in-state rival Miami.
What to Watch For:
FSU faces their next ACC test in Notre Dame on Saturday, Jan. 25. Plan to watch an ACC showdown against Duke on Feb. 10, a win over the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium would further legitimize FSU as the basketball school they have become.