Boston College hasn’t won since December.
Wake Forest is probably a day or two from ending its fifth losing season in six years, barring a miracle.
N.C. State is set to follow the same script as it has all season, namely unleashing Cat Barber for 20 points on an average day, 30 on a good one or 35 on a great one and hoping the supporting cast cobbles together enough to survive.
That leaves Florida State as the most intriguing team – by far – to watch on Tuesday, the first day of the ACC tournament in Washington, D.C.
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The No. 11 seed Seminoles face the No. 14 seed Eagles at 2 p.m. in the first round.
The shortage of relevant storylines is in part a byproduct of conference expansion, which pushed the league tournament out an extra day. It further ensures a few teams are already at home by the time the likes of No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Virginia (let alone most of the event’s fans) arrive in town.
Then again, without Louisville’s self-imposed postseason ban, this becomes an even more congested opening day. If the Cardinals were in Washington, the first round matchups would have been Florida State-N.C. State, Syracuse-Boston College and Georgia Tech-Wake Forest.
It makes the Seminoles (18-12, 8-10 ACC) a curiosity, a team still harboring even faint hopes for an at-large NCAA tournament bid stuck toiling against one of the worst teams in ACC history before advancing to more challenging matters on Wednesday.
It’s a wonder Florida State even ended up in this place. The Seminoles were supposed to be improved (they were), with impact talent in their freshman class (which they have) and a chance to create headaches for the conference’s top tier (that was hit or miss) after three years of muddling in the midpack morass.
The short answer is that Leonard Hamilton’s program, which built its reputation from the latter half of the last decade to its 2012 ACC title on defense, ranked in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency over the last two months. Offensively, the Seminoles have rarely been better under Hamilton – and never played at so fast a pace.
Chalk up a young backcourt of sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes and freshman Malik Beasley along with sophomore wing Dwayne Bacon for some of the defensive troubles. Yet despite that, Florida State isn’t too far from the edge of the NCAA tournament field.
Facing Boston College (7-24, 0-18), however, does little to help the Seminoles. Neither will Wednesday’s potential second round game against Virginia Tech, though the Hokies pose a far greater impediment than the Eagles.
Boston College is the first ACC team in nearly three decades to go winless in conference play, a forgettable slog of more than two months through a deep and unforgiving league with only a couple of near-misses interspersed.
Injuries haven’t helped – guard Jerome Robinson missed nine games with a broken wrist, and fellow freshman Sammy Barnes-Thompkins is out for Tuesday’s opening round game with a concussion. But the Eagles were always destined for the a tournament’s first day.
The same was arguably true of Wake Forest (11-19, 2-16), which features a pair of veteran mainstays in Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas but is otherwise reliant on the freshmen and sophomores second-year coach Danny Manning lured to Winston-Salem. A step forward (which didn’t arrive in league play) was a reasonable hope. A miracle – which Manning has some figurative experience with – was asking too much.
As a result, the Demon Deacons find themselves playing on the first day of the ACC tournament for the 10th time in the last 11 years and toting a 3-56 mark against conference opponents away from Joel Coliseum over the last six seasons. They’ve also lost their last nine games away from home to N.C. State, a streak that covers the entirety of the Sidney Lowe years as well as coach Mark Gottfried’s tenure with the Wolfpack.
The N.C. State-Wake Forest opener – half of the historic Big Four, relegated to the nontraditional Tuesday noon tip – is not an echo of bygone ACC tournaments. The Wolfpack (15-16, 5-13) finds itself largely irrelevant for the first time in five years, save Barber’s scoring exploits.
Thus it’s up to Florida State to provide some meaning, some significance to the tournament’s opening doubleheader. In truth, only one thing matters for the Seminoles: Getting to Wednesday when things finally become more interesting, both for them and most everyone else.