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No. 11 Seminoles squander shot at back-to-back ACC regular-season titles

Florida State can't erase poor first half in loss to Notre Dame, allowing Virginia to take top seed in ACC Tournament
Florida State Seminoles guard Scottie Barnes grabs rebound at Notre Dame Fighting Irish, March 6, 2021
Posted at 10:04 PM, Mar 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-06 22:06:46-05

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Florida State lost to Notre Dame in Saturday's regular-season finale. In doing so, the No. 11 Seminoles also lost out on securing back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season titles in school history.

FSU's 83-73 loss meant its fate was in the hands of those Louisville and Virginia players on the court at the KFC Yum! Center later in the afternoon.

The Seminoles (15-5, 11-4 ACC), no longer in control of their own destiny, needed Louisville to upset the Cavaliers in order to claim a second straight regular-season conference title.

Instead, No. 21 Virginia (17-6, 13-4) beat Louisville 68-58 to win their fifth ACC regular-season title under head coach Tony Bennett and sixth No. 1 conference tournament seed.

Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett watches team from sideline in February 2020
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett watches the court during a game against Pittsburgh, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Charlottesville, Va.

Virginia took care of the Cardinals (13-6, 8-5) to leapfrog the Seminoles by percentage points (.765 to .733) despite a blowout loss at FSU in their lone meeting Feb. 15.

Because of uneven ACC schedules as a result of coronavirus cancellations, the Seminoles wound up playing two fewer games than the Cavaliers. In any other season, had a full 20-game ACC schedule been played and the teams finished with the same amount of losses, FSU would have wound up with the tiebreaker by virtue of the head-to-head meeting.

Notre Dame (10-14, 7-11) led by as many as 20 points on its way to a 47-31 halftime lead. FSU closed to 74-70 on Anthony Polite's 3-point shot with 2:34 left, but that's as close as the Seminoles came to catching the Fighting Irish, who never trailed.

It was Notre Dame's first win against a ranked opponent since 2017.

Florida State Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton on sideline at Notre Dame Fighting Irish, March 6, 2021
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton directs his players during the first half of a game against Notre Dame, Saturday, March 6, 2021, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 83-73.

"Part of the journey of our team is being in a position mentally and emotionally to handle this moment, the pressure to want to play well and win a championship," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "The will of Notre Dame wanting to be successful against a top 25 opponent, their will was a little stronger than ours today."

The Seminoles are still assured of a double bye as the No. 2 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament, but their 3-4 conference road record is a cause for concern headed into the postseason.

FSU will play either Duke, Boston College or Louisville in Thursday's quarterfinals. The Seminoles beat the Eagles and Cardinals earlier in the season, while the Blue Devils are one of the three ACC teams (along with Syracuse and Virginia Tech) that FSU didn't face in the regular season during its two coronavirus pauses.

Hamilton, who recently received a contract extension, has led the Seminoles to a pair of official ACC championships (2012 and 2020) and 14 postseason appearances in his 19 seasons at FSU.