It was a fitting Senior Day for the Seminoles (21-9, 12-4) against Clemson on Sunday in a game that typified this team all season.
Florida State looked terrific at times, threatening to blow out the Tigers with a double-digit halftime lead, but then looked suspect in the second half and had to fight to survive at the end.
But the Seminoles won. Just like they managed to do in two thirds of their games this season.
"The one thing I've learned is patience," said coach Leonard Hamilton with a touch of sarcasm, following his team's 80-72 win. "They taught me patience, because their hearts have always been in the right place. ... They've worked hard, and we've had the opportunity to overcome a lot of challenges that we've faced. I can't say enough about them."
Hamilton had to scold and cajole throughout the game, just as he's done all season. But the Seminoles finished their final week of the regular season with a last-second road win at Virginia, after trailing by 11 points in the second half, then outlasted Clemson. They earned a third-place finish in the ACC standings -- matching last year -- and a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament that begins Thursday in Atlanta.
The Seminoles have rarely played well in the ACC Tournament, but the last time this event was in Atlanta was the only time they reached the championship game. They will face either Clemson in a rematch or NC State in the quarterfinal.
Can this team win the ACC Tournament? Sure, but the Seminoles are also capable of another first-round exit like last year. Their main focus is trying to get a good seed for the NCAA Tournament. A win or two in the ACC Tournament may push them up to a No. 5 seed, which is a much better draw for getting into the Sweet 16 for a second straight year.
If the Seminoles are playing well, they have proven to be as good as any team in the country. But there's also the dark side, which has reared its head in recent road losses to Miami and Boston College.
The split personality often happens in the same game, as it did Sunday.
"I am just glad we won," said Luke Loucks. "It would be a terrible feeling to walk out of that gym one last time with a loss, so it was a great day."
NOTES AND QUOTES
F Bernard James sent a letter of apology to Virginia Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett, the school president, athletic director and ACC commissioner's office, as well as the Cavs' Joe Harris, for kicking his leg at Harris while both players were on the ground battling for a loose ball in the Mar. 1 game. James was kicked out of the game, booed off the court by UVA fans, but not suspended, because it was not a fight. The 27-year-old James, an Air Force veteran, wanted to ensure he could clear his name from the incident. His letter was distributed to the media covering the FSU-Clemson game and read on the air by the ESPN broadcast crew.
In the letter, James quickly admitted his actions in the second half of Thursday's game "had no place on the court." He would add later that "I sincerely regret my actions and hope you, your program and university along with [Harris] are able to forgive my mistake." ...
Keeping his tradition, Hamilton had a private dinner at his home with FSU's seniors prior to the final home game. In this case, it was Saturday night. And it honored the best senior class in school history. The Seminoles' four-year seniors -- Loucks, Deividas Dulkys and Xavier Gibson --won 90 games in their careers, eclipsing the 89 won by last year's seniors. The other seniors -- James, Jon Kreft and Jeff Peterson -- were transfer players. In Peterson's case, this was the only season he played for FSU.
"The seniors, they mean a lot because they pretty much started the consistency of FSU winning in basketball," said sophomore guard Ian Miller. ...
Dulkys ranks third all time in school history in 3-pointers attempted with 539 and fifth all-time in 3-pointers made with 192, just two behind Tim Pickett's 194. ...
James has 151 career blocked shots, fourth most in school history.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7/12 -- With their win Sunday against Clemson, the Seminoles tied their best ACC home record with seven wins and tied their most ACC wins in a season with 12. The only previous time FSU finished 12-4 in the ACC was in 1994, the team's second year in the league, when coach Pat Kennedy's team had future NBA players Bob Sura and Charlie Ward in the backcourt. That season, FSU reached the Elite Eight -- the Seminoles' best NCAA Tournament run aside from losing to UCLA in the 1972 national title game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you have meetings like that and guys just pour out their heart, it brings it a lot closer together. Men typically don't like to share their emotions. ... When guys show their emotions like that. It brings your team closer together." -- Florida State F Bernard James, describing a seniors-only dinner with coach Leonard Hamilton on Mar. 3, when players described what it meant to play at FSU during their careers.