Florida State captured its first ACC basketball championship in such impressive fashion that the Seminoles made a major leap when the tournament committee revealed its bracket.
The Seminoles' 85-82 victory over North Carolina in the ACC championship game in Atlanta Sunday propelled them to a No. 3 seed in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
The Seminoles (24-9) play No. 14 St. Bonaventure (20-11) Friday in Nashville.
"It means a lot to the program to be able to crack into the upper echelon of such a rich tradition," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said Sunday. "We want to keep building the program so we can contend on a regular basis."
For now, the Seminoles hope to contend in a bracket in which the top four seeds are Syracuse, Ohio State, FSU and Wisconsin. The Seminoles-St. Bonaventure winner will play Sunday against the winner of No. 6 Cincinnati and No. 11 Texas.
The East Regional semifinals and finals will be in Boston starting either March 22 or 23.
Florida State, which entered the ACC Tournament ranked No. 17, eliminated No. 6 Duke and No. 4 North Carolina from the conference tournament in a span of 24 hours, a difficult feat considering the tradition and success of the two dominating programs. FSU defeated the two ACC powers twice each this season.
The Seminoles are just the second team in 16 seasons other than Duke or North Carolina to win the ACC title, joining Maryland in 2004.
"It's a great accomplishment just because their history is so rich," FSU guard Luke Loucks said. "Not only to beat them, but to have an opportunity to play those teams on this stage and in this game was really important to us."
Yet, the Seminoles are the lowest seeded team of the three in the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina (29-5) is the top seed in the Midwest and Duke (27-6) is the No. 2 seed in the South.
Michael Snaer, the tournament MVP, scored 18 points to lead Florida State, which held off North Carolina's charge with its three-point shooting, disappointing the partisan Tar Heels crowd.
The Seminoles, who blew out the Tar Heels by 33 points during the regular season, led by 16 in the first half and prevented North Carolina from coming all the way back by hitting 11-of-22 threes. North Carolina was just 5-of-20 from beyond the arc.
North Carolina's Kendall Marshall missed a three-point attempt with five seconds remaining and FSU leading by one point. FSU's Deividas Dulkys made two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining and P.J. Hairston missed a potential game-tying three at the buzzer.
Dulkys finished with 16 points. Snaer and Loucks (10 points, 13 assists) were named to the All-Tournament team.
Florida State, which was playing in its second ACC Tournament final since joining the league in 1991, is in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. This is its best shot in Hamilton's 10 years to make a deep run.
The Seminoles have six seniors in its rotation and suddenly they are showing signs of offensive life while continuing to play their trademark hard-nosed, suffocating defense. FSU held North Carolina to 39.4 percent shooting from the floor while making 58.9 percent of their shots.
Following the victory, Loucks recalled a talk Hamilton gave to the team a couple of seasons ago.
"He said, 'You can really change the culture of Florida State basketball,' " Loucks said. "We're stepping in the right direction of doing that and making our mark. We're not just some random team from Florida. We're in the thick of things every year."
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